Gratitude (9)

100 Things You Are Grateful For

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This exercise may seem simple, but I can almost guarantee you will struggle with it. And honestly, that is partly the point.

The process is simple; just think of 100 things you are grateful for (or would be grateful to have someday).


This act will open your mind to the staggering amount of things there are to be grateful for. It will also help you invite abundance into your life because you will be listing things you might not have yet but want for yourself in the future.

You may be surprised at some of the things you list; things you never thought about being grateful for, or something you never realized you actually wanted. 

Don’t freak out about finishing this list all in one go (you probably won’t be able to). Just get through as much as possible in one sitting, and keep coming back to it as you think of more items.

Print out this post to use it as a workbook.

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Being kinder is not about making sacrifices or denying your own needs. Treating people kindly is not an imposition or another task on your checklist.

It’s the outward manifestation of living positively. Kindness is all about mindset, and you can train your brain to make kindness almost automatic. Ever notice that being kind to someone makes you feel good too? It’s because altruism promotes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These chemicals make you feel good but also work to reinforce positive social behavior. By laying down new neural pathways, you set yourself up for living a positive, kinder life.

Here are some scientifically proven tips for engineering kindness into your brain.

  1. Choose to be kind

In choosing to be kind, you are consciously resetting your mindset to treat people with compassion and empathy. Notice the effect of your kindness on others. When you smile, people’s natural reaction is to smile back. You set up a kindness loop that keeps on paying itself forward!

When you choose to be kind, regardless of how you are feeling, it will turn even a miserable day into a brighter one. Acts of kindness sends the message to your brain that all is well, and before you know it you’ll be feeling more cheerful.

  1. Do more random acts of kindness

Studies have shown that carrying out five random acts of kindness every week is the single most effective way of increasing your happiness. Anything from buying a complete stranger a cup of coffee, to letting another driver into the traffic, or mowing your neighbor’s lawn will make you and the other guy feel good.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

Self-kindness starts with noticing your self-talk. Are you encouraging or judging? Do you start from a position of ‘yes you can’ or ‘you’ll never do it’? Pay attention to that voice in your head, and change the script to kindness.

Build little acts of self-care into your day. Reward successes, big and small. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated and have a nutritious diet.

  1. Practice gratitude

Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown you will be happier when you notice the good things in your life and practice gratitude. The outcome is so marked that it changes your brain structure! Brain scans have shown the effect of mindfulness and gratitude.  The part of the brain that reacts to stress shrinks, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow.

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Gratitude for "this" cross

5 years ago I started attending a Greek Orthodox Parish in Souderton, Pa. I met the priest of the church, “Father Noah” at my Toastmasters group. He was calm, welcoming, intelligent and very calculated in his words and movements. Something about him I was attracted to. He invited me to his church, and I accepted, even though I have had baggage with organized religion, “he” made me want to check it out. 

On my very first visit, upon listening to the choir (there are no instruments at a Greek Orthodox Parish) I came to tears. The sounds, the harmonies and melodies were so beautiful, being in that church made me feel happy, safe and secure. I started meeting with Father Noah every few months, I enjoyed our talks greatly. He said he enjoyed our talks as well, as he didn’t have a lot of friends outside of the church. It seemed we had both benefited from meeting each other. He lent me one of the crosses in his pocket. Those who know me, know that I love the rituals of religion, spirituality and God. I love the singing, the incense, the candles, the iconography, and the “tools of the trade”. I was excited about the cross, because one thing I do a lot of is prayer. I started holding this cross as I drove reciting the Jesus prayer over and over again. I can’t quite explain it, I just came to really enjoy this cross. In the past 5 years, Father Noah has joked a handful of times about lending me his cross and not getting it back. But two weeks ago, I felt something more in his joke, I knew it was time to return it.

So just a few days ago, I restained the cross and while I’m sad to let go of it, I know that it is time. Somebody else may need it more than me. And, at a training this past weekend, a Buddhist monk came up to me on the street in center city Philadelphia and handed me a prayer bracelet. What a gift from the divine, to surrender one thing that has helped me and have it replaced with another. Attached is the picture of the cross I reference in this story. 

I have been going to church every Saturday night to a service called, "Vespers" with my son, for over four years now.

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Gratitude for Art

Last year, my family and I decided that we wanted to move into a bigger house. We eventually found our house in April of 2018. It was our dream house as we got to pick the design and pretty much everything that was inside of it. There were a lot of steps involved with building this house.

A few months before we moved in I received a very clear premonition. I was to put a portrait created by an artist, in the walkway into our bedroom. This portrait was to be of my favorite saint, “Saint Therese of Lisieux” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_of_Lisieux). I have had my deepest and most profound spiritual experience with Saint Therese, and that is a story for another day.

As the time got closer to our settlement date, I approached my friend Todd about creating a piece of artwork for me. He was excited about the opportunity and started asking me a lot of questions about Saint Therese. I’ve seen Todd’s artwork, I know he is very talented, but as he was asking me questions I could tell he was passionate about the opportunity to create this portrait. In addition, I was excited because I knew this piece of artwork was going to create a significant impact in my family’s life, in my “houses life” and of course in my life. So the months passed and I would ask Todd from time to time how the progress of the painting was coming along. It was a slow process, but if I’m honest, I was glad it was slow because to me that meant Todd was putting a lot of time and effort into this portrait.

Well, I just received this portrait last night, and it was worth every minute of the waiting. I had no expectation of this painting, I just wanted a picture of my favorite Saint, Saint Therese. If you’re in need of some help, I urge you to call on her. She is impacted my life greatly and my life is just better knowing she is looking out for me.

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Gratitude For My Wife

                I picked up Discover Yourself Through Gratitude: A Journal this past Tuesday morning and opened to a random selection and choose, "Who is your best friend and why". I immediately started journaling about gratitude for my wife Becky and the amazing woman that she has always been and continues to be. It was very natural as I listed all of the reasons I think she is wonderful. It felt good to do this and it changed my mood.

                Within a few hours, I read another article on Linked-In from a man I greatly admire. He wrote about how important it is that his kids and his grandkids see a deep love he feels for his wife, he said it will be instrumental in how deeply they love their spouses. The stars aligned and it came through crystal clear in that moment. Sometimes I come home from work stressed out and not in a good mood. This night, however, I was beaming (largely in part of the journal entry). At the dinner table, I said, "Who wants to lead prayer tonight" as I usually do. My daughter (3 years young and so cute) chimed in and said a few words of thanks for our food and our new house. After her prayer, I immediately started talking about my journal entry and the gratitude for my wife and my children's mother is. It was palpable because I can blow hot air with the best of them, but I really do think the world of my amazing wife, and my words were not just spoken, they were felt. I spoke of how she cooks for all of us, she cleans for all of us, she does the laundry for all of us, she gives hours of her time and unconditional love to play with our kids, she is patient, she is centered, she is kind, she is organized, she is beautiful and she knows how to love better than anyone I know. I could tell that my kids were right with me, they heard me and started chiming in about how wonderful their mom is. This meant a lot to my wife, I could tell immediately. I think it's safe to say that being a full-time parent can be a thankless job. This family dinner became a conversation on gratitude and this one conversation changed our future dinnertime conversations, I felt it. Gratitude has always been a part of our family, but something shifted at this dinner and I think we all felt it. It was powerful.

                So then that night, I shared the story for my friends. It felt good to share this story because the experience was authentic and heartfelt. When I arrived home, my wife was in a great mood, I could feel the gratitude for my wife. I've been someone who has lived most of their life crippled by the intellect and this story transpired from somewhere very different... the heart. So finally, at my Toastmasters meeting this past Wednesday, during impromptu speaking (which I love) I revisited the story once more and the people in that room were impacted, I could see it in their eyes as I shared. While it may sound cliché, I'm grateful to finally start to understand gratitude. I've spoken of gratitude for the past 20 years, but this one story has shifted what gratitude means to me. And it has propelled me to want to experience more of it.

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Paying Taxes with Gratitude

What?  I know, you read "Paying Taxes with Gratitude" and said, "Who is this woman, and what has she been smoking?"  Well, let me explain.  

For years now, I have been preparing the annual income tax return for myself and my husband by using TurboTax on my computer.  It is usually an arduous two-day process, during which I cover the dining room table with the spilled contents of "The Tax Folder".  That's the file in which big and little pieces of paper are jammed in no order throughout the year that may come in handy for itemizing our spendable lives.  I could organize it better on a daily basis, but apparently, I take perverse satisfaction from being able to bitch about the chaos and the entire process of doing, and paying, taxes on an annual basis.  I could pay someone else to do it for me, but since it is a mess I (we) have created, I claim ownership of it.  It makes me feel IN CHARGE of my life.....or not.

So, the annual complaint-fest that emerges from my dining room began on Sunday afternoon.  I had heard rumblings about the changes in the tax laws that would be harming charitable organizations but had not thought they would affect me....a middle-class taxpayer.  So, I optimistically fired up my laptop, loaded the Turbotax program, and began plugging in our 1099R info.  We are both retired, so not much changes in our income or expenses.  Or so I thought.  But wait!  This was the tax year in which I received a full year of Social Security benefits.  For the uninformed, this means that if you've worked your entire life at a decent job, you have paid social security taxes.  I stress the word PAID.  It would make sense that since what I now receive is called a BENEFIT, it should be some sort of gift, right?  Oh no, folks.  This income is taxable!!!  My income increased by a fairly substantial amount this past year.  At the same time as that was happening, the tax laws wiped out all of the deductible power of my charitable giving.  The money I gave to the Church, the child I sponsored forever in the Dominican Republic, the material goods I donate to the Salvation Army, Big Brother/Big Sisters, the Food Bank, and on and on.....now count for NOTHING on my income tax.  Also, my medical expenses, although meeting the test for being more than 7.5% of my adjusted gross income, still don't add up to enough to count.  My property and school taxes?  Likewise not worth a damn.  

So, I spent most of yesterday entering it all again.  Surely I had done something wrong, right?  This has never, ever happened.  Maybe it's a glitch in the program!  Nope. According to the new tax laws, we're better off taking the Standard Deduction, which means we now owe more than I expected.  What?????  I entered it all again, asking for the itemized deduction option.  After all, I'm quite the Charitable Giver!  I pay taxes!  I have medical expenses!  I give lots of money away to people I can't even claim anywhere!  Isn't The Patron Saint of Charities watching over me?  Well, after refusing the Standard Deduction, it now says I owe over 20% more.  Yikes!!!  Back to being Standard, I guess.

I stepped away from my computer, talked it over with my husband who couldn't believe it either, and then after calming myself for a few minutes a miracle happened.  Guess what???  I became strangely and surprisingly GRATEFUL!!!  Yep!  Here is what I realized:  (1) I can probably prevent this next year by altering what taxes I have withheld on my Social Security; (2) Although I would rather not have to pay those taxes, I am able to without hardship.  I have the money, and it will not significantly harm my budget; (3) I made sufficient money all of my life to put me in this position of privilege; (4) I gave away many things and much money last year for no benefit to myself, but also to no real detriment, and it helped other people.  There were no strings attached, no public accolades, and no ego-feeding involved.  Those were just righteous, good intentions and actions.  I don't require, nor deserve rewards for doing that!; and lastly, (5) most importantly, I am living a life which encourages me to examine and celebrate the blessings in my life on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.  An alternate me would have stomped and moaned, protested and cussed, and ruined at the very least the rest of my day with grousing about taxes, the government, and the general unfairness of life.  Today, I am blessed with gratitude for all that I have, which includes the material wealth that allows me to type this missive on the very same laptop that tells me I owe money for the privilege of living in my warm, safe home, in my great country, with my supportive husband and my sweet, sweet puppies.  I'm retired from a great job that I loved for all 35 years of it, and am sitting here on a snowy morning, still in my jammies, and celebrating my life.

So....I am GRATEFUL for the opportunity of Paying Taxes with Gratitude, and to wish all who read it a wonderful, miracle-filled day.

 
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Grateful to Take a Shower

It is Sunday morning and I have just taken a shower. Something we all probably take for granted. I started the shower with the thought of gratitude, that I was even taking a shower. I have been in bed sick for 3 days. I lay there thinking. I should eat something. I should take a shower. I will feel better. Did not eat much of anything. No shower. It would take to much effort. I talked myself out of doing anything. It was never a long conversation. Inaction won the battle for 3 days.

I knew taking a shower was the key to my new life. When I was growing up and was sick, after 2 or 3 days my Mom would come into my room and say "Okay, get up take a bath. You are done being sick". I do not know how she picked the number. But it was correct. A shower is a sign of change. You want to feel different. Take a shower. 

I could have taken the shower at midnight. Yes, I reasoned it would be better to wait till later. So I took my shower at 9. Gratitude would have taken the shower at midnight. Gratitude crept in a 9 am with my Mom's voice. I thought of the hot water experience and was grateful for the hot water. I was grateful for the Doterra shampoo that lasts me 6 months. I was grateful the drain was not frozen. I was grateful I did not drop the soap. I was grateful for the breakfast that was waiting for me.

Taking a hot shower. Most of the people in the world would gladly switch with me. Lots of people have never experienced a hot shower. In Russia, the hot water gets turned off every summer for as long as a month. Lots of people do not even have a shower. Lots of people do not have clean drinking water, let alone a hot shower.

I held my attention to each of these as I took my shower. Really enjoying my life as it was unfolding this morning. The thought came to me yesterday you need a subject for an article to get The Good Life Mall rolling. Today you have one, “Grateful to Take a Shower”.

Happiness is not getting what you want. It is being grateful for what you have. I am grateful today for what I have. Thanks, Mom for the orders. I would have chosen at least an extra day. My life would have been a lot shorter.

 

 

 

 

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6 Ways Gratitude Improves Your Life

While it’s easy to say, “Maintain an attitude of gratitude, focus on the positive, and you’ll be happier” putting it into practice is quite difficult. It may even seem insurmountable when you face certain challenges. However, trying to find the positive, in whatever you’re going through, will save you a lot of stress. You may even find a useful solution to the problem you’re facing.
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