coping

Benefits & Practices of Gratitude

Before you begin reading: take a moment and think of three things you are grateful for right now. Notice any feelings, sensations, thoughts, or reactions as you take this moment to reflect.

The practice of gratitude has been a tremendous part of my own personal growth and healing over the past 5 or so years. Because I have been profoundly impacted by this practice, I wanted to spend some time sharing the possible benefits and various strategies you may try. Many doctors and mental health professionals can be found citing the psychological and health benefits, ranging from fewer aches and pains, decreased blood pressure for folks with hypertension, reduction in anger, frustration and resentment, enhancement in empathy, decreased aggression, improved sleep, reduction in depressive symptoms, improved self-esteem, overall improvement in social relationships, increased spirituality, and more.

If you are looking for new ways to improve your overall mental and physical health, here is a list of ten possible gratitude practices you may consider trying:

             1. Gratitude journal - free-write about anything that comes to mind that you are feeling grateful for each night

             2. Gratitude list - similar to the gratitude journal, but if you are not interested in free-writing, you may choose to write a list instead. If may be helpful to decide on a certain number and work towards listing that many each day.

             3. Recite your gratitude - you could do this one when you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night. Simply state all the things you are grateful out loud.

             4. Share your gratitude - choose to notice gratitude throughout the day and as often as you can express your gratitude to another person

             5. Meal Gratitude - Before you sit down for a meal, take a moment to reflect and thank (silently or out loud) on all the efforts it took to get your food to your plate. Acknowledge each part of the process individually (i.e. If you are eating an egg & cheese omelet, you might thank the chickens for producing the eggs, the farmer who raised the chickens, the store owners that sell chicken feed, the earth for providing grass, bugs, etc for chickens to eat, the person who boxed the eggs, the person who sold the eggs to you, the cow that produced the milk to make the cheese, and so on....).

              6. Gratitude Visualization - Take a moment to set up however you might for visualization/meditation. Choose a comfortable seat or lay down on the floor. Take a moment to notice your breath and notice how you feel in the moment. Envision a person that has contributed to your life. Try and notice all the details of this person that you can. Envision all the ways in which this person has helped you, supported you, or somehow made your life better. Take time to really soak this in. After you have spent time with this, envision yourself. Envision yourself thanking them. Consider all you might say or how you would like to thank them. Spend time letting this soak in. When you are ready, return to noticing your breath and how you feel in this new moment. Return to the room and continue on with your day/night.

             7. Self-Massage - You may choose an oil of your preference for this. Some options may include sesame oil (not the cooking kind), jojoba oil, coconut oil or whatever else feels right to you. You may work top-down or bottom-up. I would recommend top down if you are looking for stress relief or to calm before bed and top-up if you are looking to energize or wake up in the morning. Once you choose where to start, you will place a small dab of oil into your hands and begin to massage that into an area of your body. The trick is that when you do so, you are sending love and gratitude to that part of your body. (i.e. if massaging the feet, internally thank them for all the miles they have walked you, for holding the rest of your body, for helping you to keep balance, etc). Move slowly from body part to body part thanking each part for what it has offered you. If you do not have time to do a full body massage, or are not comfortable with this for any reason, just choose one area to work with and give thanks to. This is an adapted version of an Ayurvedic Practice called Abhyanga. If you are interested in learning more specifically about Abhyanga, visit cdn.banyanbotanicals.com

             8. Write a gratitude letter - Choose one person that has inspired you, supported you, loved you, or changed your life for the better in any way and write them a thank you letter acknowledging their importance and impact on your life.

             9. Earth Gratitude - Go outside and choose a comfortable area to practice child's pose. While you are in child's pose, notice the Earth beneath you. Feel whatever is touching your body. Thank the Earth out loud or silently for all it has provided to you.

            10. Walking Gratitude - Choose a place to take a walk. This will be a slow/meditative walk simply focused on gratitude. Every 5-10 steps you take, acknowledge something/someone you are grateful for (silently or out loud). Do this for the entirety of your walk. You may begin to choose a shorter distance walk in the beginning and work towards lengthening the distance as you practice.

I hope you find something here that seems worthy of trying - if not, create your own or do more research for additional ideas!

I will end with a reading from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening:

“The goal of all experience is to remove whatever might keep us from being whole. The things we learn through love and pain reduce our walls and bring our inner and outer life together, and all the while the friction of being alive erodes whatever impediments remain. But the simplest and deepest way to make who we are at one with the world is through the kinship of gratitude. Nothing brings the worlds of spirit and earth together more quickly. To be grateful means giving thanks for more than just the things we want, but also for the things that surmount our pride and stubbornness. Somethings the things I’ve wanted and worked for, if I actually received them, would have crushed me. Sometimes just giving thanks for the mystery of it all brings everything and everyone closer, the way suction pulls streams of water together. So take a chance and openly give thanks, even if you’re not sure what for, and feel the plentitude of all that is living brush up against your heart” - Mark Nepo


Summertime Blues in Maine: 10 ways to kick em

I woke up this morning and looked at the calendar - JULY 19TH?! How did that happen? A common discussion among Mainers in the summer is, “where has the summer gone” and “I feel like the summer is wasting away”. So many spend time reminiscing about “the times when summer felt like eternity”. As you age, it is normal for time to pass by quickly, for responsibilities to outweigh fun. Summer depression is a frustrating and confusing experience in Maine. We panic because we know the warm weather isn’t here for long. It is not uncommon to experience some form of summertime blues. Here are some strategies you may consider if you are in a funk.

1 - Consider your expectations

Time and time again, I come back to this same point. Often we bring ourselves pain from setting our summer expectations too high. (i.e. I will go to the beach every sunny day) It can be a helpful exercise to first look at what our expectations are. Awareness is always the first step towards change. Once you have done that, might it be possible to make any adjustments in your expectations? (i.e. I will visit the beach once every other week) If so, I would recommend giving that a try. Shifting our mindset can be a powerful tool if we are able to do it.

2 - Go berry picking

In your backyard if your lucky or at a friend’s house maybe. Go hunting for wild berries in the woods if you’re up for an adventure. If you are not feeling adventurous, but would like the satisfaction of berries at the end, find a local farm. Check out - https://maxwellsfarm.com/ in Cape Elizabeth.

3 - Plan one FULL day just for YOU

If you are someone who spends a lot of your time doing for others, than this one is meant for you.

4 - Identify an outdoor safe haven that’s close-ish to your house and spend time there.

It doesn’t have to be for long. Maybe it’s on the way home from the grocery store for five minutes. Maybe one day you have the luxury to spend an hour or FOUR! Just make it a point to get there when you can.

5 - Act opposite

Often, when we are feeling depressed, our mind is telling us to stay in bed, watch netflix, isolate, eat lots of high sugar food, drink lots of alcohol, etc. This ends up feeding our depression and we stay stuck in that cycle, yet clawing to get out. If this is your situation, I would urge you to consider acting opposite to the feeling or urge you have to any extent possible. By engaging in opposite behavior, you are more likely to move towards an opposite emotion and less likely to stay stuck. Start small - consider the movie, What About Bob, “baby steps”.

6 - Take a walk and smell all the flowers

If there’s a saying about it, there’s probably a reason...

7 - Spend time in or near water

We live in Maine and are blessed with so many water sources - find one! There is healing power in water. If you absolutely cannot do this at any point in the summer, take a bath! Set the mood first though and make it a whole thing -this is your time.

8 - Seek Inspiration

Do the things on this list seem challenging? Reach out to someone in your life who inspires you. It is totally normal to need support and good practice to find your voice and ask for what you need.

9 - Weed a garden

Your own if you have one. If you don’t, find someone who does and offer to help. They will be eternally grateful for the support. Weeding can be quite therapeutic and the finished product is pretty great to see as well.

10 - Try one new thing

It’s so easy to get stuck, bored, in a funk, and forget the wonder of the world around us. Find playfulness by trying something new - consider asking someone to join you in this adventure. What’s one thing you always wanted to try? Or maybe, what’s one thing you haven’t done since you were just a small kid? (Check out the forts at Fort Williams, stop by your local farmer’s market, try goat yoga at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland, or visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay).

 

Maybe this week you give just one of these a try. With all things, practice compassion with yourself. If these suggestions don’t kick your summer blues, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment for some additional support. We would love to hear from you - add your own ideas to this list by posting below!

    Sunflower Farms, Cumberland, ME           http://www.sunflowerfarm.info

    Sunflower Farms, Cumberland, ME

        http://www.sunflowerfarm.info