Open yourself to gratitude

Open yourself to gratitude

We all know that Gratitude is something that we “should” practice in order to live a happier life. But, why? What happens in the body and mind when we practice gratitude and the act of being grateful?

I’ve realized a lot of “being grateful” comes from being without. It might sound like a cliché question, but do you truly know what you have until it’s gone? Once you miss something and realize its importance in your life, you become grateful for it. That feeling of gratitude helps to ground you,  especially when you are always moving on with your busy life.

A personal example of gratitude in my life is our first pregnancy. After 15 weeks of being pregnant, my husband and I found out we miscarried. I remember gratitude was not even a word in my vocabulary. I went to the extreme of not being grateful for a thing: focusing on only the negative. This, not surprisingly, made my life more negative than before. I was envious of all the women I saw just being happy. What I realized was that my focus was only on myself. Our miscarriage did not just happen to me, it happened to our family. The situation affected everyone. When I took a step back and became grateful for my life, and everything I have- my relationships with my husband, family, and friends- it helped to strengthen all of my positive emotions. My body and mind became more open to all that I have in my life to be grateful for. 

Something I learned after this was that both positivity and negativity feed off each other. In every situation, you choose the energy you put into the world. For example, once I started not being consumed with the negativity in my life, the storm blew away. After the storm, we were blessed with our rainbow baby, a boy we named Asher. Keeping in mind for every negative there is a positive, you just have to open your mind and be grateful for what you have. Don’t wait until you are without those precious things to recognize their importance to you. 

 Here are 3 ways to be more grateful and have gratitude in your everyday life:

  • Start with being present. 
  • Make the time to be grateful – This might sound like the easiest, but when and how much time do you actually take to do this? 
  • Be social about your joy and sharing those moments!
Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

My first thought when approached with the subject of Creating Your Sanctuary was “easy peasy, I’m a designer at McCready Interiors, I do that for clients and customers every day”. I ask many questions to find what they want their environment to reflect, then select styles and fabrics or leathers that will be successful in creating that feeling.

A sanctuary is a place of refuge, a place of safety, a place to retreat, it should reflect whatever brings you a sense of peace and tranquility.

In reflecting and researching for my blog, I considered that my personal sanctuary actually changes quite often. My home is obviously a sanctuary where I retreat at the end of the day, but I soon realized I have many opportunities for a sanctuary; a walk in the woods, my gardens, a yoga class, even a visit to the home of my best friend since high school to enjoy the hot tub and catch up.

Your sanctuary may be the beach, an exercise class, a girls night out, or a space in your home you can make your own. It could be those moments when you have the opportunity for “no boys (or kids) allowed”, a big comfy reading chair or a place you can have quiet time to reflect, meditate, or just slow down to recharge.

As women, many of our lives are centered around taking care of others;  we are nurturers, caregivers, helpmates. We tend to do for others before taking care of ourselves. When we give our all to everyone else, there is little left for ourselves.  The importance of self-care is critical to our well-being. We must take the time to regard ourselves highly enough to carve out time and space to enjoy a sanctuary of our own.

Creating your sanctuary is simply making a space that gives you the opportunity to surround yourself with an area to take a breath and unwind.

If you are able to start with a blank slate space, select a wall color that reflects calm to you. Select pieces that avoid clutter and chaos, keep the space simple. This is an area you want to be able to completely relax in.

Carefully edit what you place in your sacred space, less is usually more when you are looking for a place for quiet or meditation. If nature brings you calm and joy, place greenery or nature-inspired artwork there. Position your comfy reading chair facing a window so you can enjoy the view. If the beach is your sanctum, use colors that reflect the sand, sea, and sky. Surround yourself with beauty and an atmosphere of calm. Turn off the TV and turn on your favorite music if you don’t want silence. I have many Pandora stations I can select from to enhance whatever mood or feeling I want to focus on. I choose Motown if I want to escape and maybe dance a little (when no one is watching), Glenn Miller if I’m feeling nostalgic, Eric Clapton or the Beatles for a variety of reasons, and slow smooth jazz or classical choices to for a quieter environment.

Candles whether real or the real-looking battery powered styles can set the mood with soft lighting. Many of us have essential oils and diffusers to provide soothing scents to help create the perfect environment.

When we make time to devote to ourselves and nurture ourselves, we become our better selves. A sacred space is a perfect place to let our best selves shine through. Creating a sanctuary isn’t difficult. Just remember to keep it reflective of who you are and what kind of energy you want it to invoke.

Putting Happiness on Trial

Putting Happiness on Trial

When I was given the assignment of writing this blog the introductory premise was, “There are few people who are naturally happy”, hence the need to make the affirmative choice to pursue happiness. So in the interest of full disclosure, I will start with the fact that I think I’m naturally happy. I willingly embrace a sometimes characterization of me as a “Pollyanna” (not necessarily offered as a compliment) and I freely admit to having bought myself a Life is Good “Naturally Optimistic” t-shirt because I think it suits me. Bottom line, either through nature or nurture, I am a glass half full kind of gal. And I feel incredibly lucky to be that way.

But rest assured, sad hard reality upending stuff happens to me just like everybody else. Loss of dear loved ones, debilitating chronic illness, business setbacks, relationship disappointments, and the election of our current President, to name a few. So what do I do then?

While it had never occurred to me before, during the opportunity of writing this blog I realized that the method I use to deal personally with these very difficult inevitabilities is the same method I use to practice my trade.

I am a trial lawyer. Which means I am a storyteller. Not a “story” teller in the lying sense so often attributed to lawyers, but in the Mind Body Align sense. I am a playwright. Facts are facts, yes, but there is surely more than one way to honestly perceive every fact. It is what it is, but what is it?

As a trial attorney, it is my job to convincingly construct and communicate my chosen reality within a given set of facts. At court I script, cast, costume, set design and act in a reality play. In a trial, I need to convince a judge or jury. In my life, I need to convince myself.

At court and in my own life I get to choose who will be called as a witness and who is left off the list. I choose what answers are evoked by what questions I ask. I choose what physical evidence is showcased and what gets left in the drawer. I choose to focus on and I choose to ignore. And before long, my reality has emerged.

Two examples from my life come to mind.

When my mother died, someone commented: “the deeper the love, the deeper the loss.” The loss of my mother cut deep, and more than 20 years later, can still bring a tear to the eye. My focus though is on the good times we shared, not the important moments in my life and that of my children that we were not able to share together. My choice for the story of the death of my mother is the love story, not the loss story.

On the anniversary of when the Twin Towers were brought down in New York City, Mr. Rogers, of PBS children’s television fame, gave advice on talking with children about the tragedy and advised focusing on “the helpers”. He said, “If you look for the helpers, you will know there is hope.” My choice is to find the hope, not focus on despair.

That’s not always so easy though, even for me. You may find it frivolous of me but the election of our current President was a reality upending event for me. Having personally ridden the wave of progress for women and minorities that had been my entire life experience, I was certain that yes Martin Luther King Jr. was correct. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the face of what I considered our country’s choice in favor of very obvious racism, misogyny, lying, and economic advantage taking, I was devastated. I was angry. Anger is different than sadness but in my experience, it was equally, if not more, mutually inconsistent with happiness. And as good a spin doctor as I am, I couldn’t shake it.

Then one day I saw that Claudia Cummins was doing a “Meditation for Action” event, co-hosted by Annamarie Fernyak at the Butterfly House. I had never meditated before but it sounded like a fit for what I needed. I went and it was.

It was the start of my mindfulness journey that has continued through ongoing participation, mostly at the Butterfly House or events they sponsor, with meditation, yoga, retreats, Coffee Talks, Align Times, book references, and just plain good thought provoking conversation.

That journey has helped bring me back to the importance of an awareness of the moment, even as it sits in the arc of history. It is a “practice” that like practice at anything builds muscle memory. It has made it easier for me, at any particular point in time, to affirmatively choose what I focus on and what I ignore. It has made me a better trial attorney in litigating my own perception of the events in my life. It has made it easier for me to choose happiness in all aspects of my life.

Lest this sound like shameless self-promotion on the part of Mind Body Align, please show them a little compassion and know that I snuck this in on them. I work downtown and am a two block away neighbor of the Butterfly House. I feel very grateful for their contributions to creating a neighborhood here.

Dictionary.com includes a definition for “neighbor” that I find both literally and figuratively fitting to the Mind Body Align experience. It reads: “a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans.” With neighbors like these, the pursuit of happiness is made all the sweeter. Lucky me, lucky us!

The views and opinions of this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinions or views of Mind Body Align or it’s employees.

Happiness is Found Beyond the Box

Happiness is Found Beyond the Box

In 2014, I experienced something that changed my life forever. I had a sleeve gastrectomy (weight loss surgery.) Before the surgery I had no confidence, often felt depressed, and my body hurt.  I couldn’t even tie my shoes! I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I decided, after researching and talking with patients who had received the procedure, to go ahead with the surgery.

I lost 140 lbs. The first year! As my confidence increased, I knew I made the right decision. My body felt great, and I could move. I was able to reach my feet and fit in a restaurant booth. In 2015 I met Mark. Mark was the next big thing to happen in my life. We knew after the first date that we were meant for each other.

Newfound Confidence

I was fired up about the changes that were occurring and realized that positive things happen with a positive attitude. I once read the quote, “If it doesn’t scare you, you are not growing,” so I decided to scare myself, A LOT. I decided that if I step outside of the box exciting things might happen.

I began speaking at seminars for the surgeon that did my procedure, and as a guest speaker at a local college graduation. Mark wanted to give me a scare too and sent a video of me singing to America’s Got Talent. Shortly after, they invited me to audition. They emailed us tickets, and in November I stood before a judge and sang my heart out.

I had always wanted to audition for a national talent show, and I realized I just marked something off my bucket list.  Although I didn’t make it to the next round, I did it!!! I was pumped. I stepped out of the box and received a reward; it was the reward of newfound confidence.

Beyond the box

Since then, Kelby King of our local television station WMFD, contacted me and invited me to be on her first episode of “Sitting Down with Kelby King.” It was a great experience and led to being asked to speak at a Kiwanis event, booked to sing at Kingwood center for their summer concert series in July, and singing at several locations around the area. And, I met the wonderful ladies at Mind Body Align who asked me to do this fun blog.

My pursuit of happiness all began with finding and uncovering my true self. I learned to love myself again and now realize I have more to offer than I was allowing myself to see. It could be any small or big change that makes the difference, be willing to step out of the box and become a better you!!!

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