With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas right around the corner, it’s hard not to be grateful for all the good fortune in your life. This time of the year we are reminded to give thanks to all the things and people we are grateful for in our life, but there is one thing I have come to realize we many times forget to show gratitude towards and that is ourselves. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful or the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. How many people think of themselves when talking about showing appreciation and kindness? I can’t say I normally do. In fact, I had never even thought of myself as being in the running.
I began to see myself move up the ranks of my own totem pole of gratitude when I decided to put buzzwords like mindfulness and meditation to the test. In my post where I first defined what the variable #Self from my BALANCE equation meant to me, I was very unsure and even a little skeptical of all of this. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post, check it out here, but in short, to me this variable meant being at peace with myself through continuous acceptance and grace towards my past, a conscious awareness and purpose in my present, and limitless ambitions and goals for my future. I picked a few techniques I had read about that appeared simple yet powerful at helping one feel centered and finding that inner peace with themselves which included things like breathing exercises and meditation. It seemed a little out in left field, but it is hard to argue the numerous studies that share a laundry list of mental health benefits, something I believe is grossly neglected in the everyday conversation of general health and well-being.
My journey started out with doing a guided meditation a few times a week, usually after I worked out and finished stretching. I had read meditating the same time every day, and specifically in the morning, is the best time to do it, but I had convinced myself after my workouts in the evening was better for me because getting up in the morning is hard enough as is so I thought meditating would quickly turn into going back to sleep. But I wasn’t feeling the results I was expecting, so I decided I had to listen to the experts.
So each morning for the past month, I have set aside 5-10 minutes to meditate and all I can say is WOW! I instantly felt a difference throughout my day, so much that it made me want to meditate the next morning to the point it has become non-negotiable. Even when I start to think about skipping over it, I just remind myself of that fact it is only 7 minutes of my day with a lasting and compounded impact on the rest of my day, mind and body. As a disclaimer, meditation is by no means a cure to all of your problems and most definitely won’t wash all of your worries away. I’ve still had bad days all while experimenting with the act of meditation, but it most definitely gives you a new perspective by creating an outlet to reflect, become aware and give gratitude.
Full disclosure: Meditating is awkward, and because of that, a little challenging at first, to the point you think you are doing it all wrong and tell yourself you should just stop. That is all normal and was, and still is, the case for me some days. But the beauty of it all, is there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can do it while sitting, lying down or even walking. You can do it with your eyes open or closed, lights on or off, with music playing or in complete silence. The point is that you carve out time for reflection and awareness through welcoming the racing thoughts of the brain while learning how to let them come and go instead of resisting them to the point you scold yourself for even having thoughts in the first place.
Now I am not going to tell you how meditation works beyond what I have already shared because I challenge you to find out for yourself…and my friend Andy will help you. He helped me get started and I know he is excited to help you too! Just download the Headspace app on your phone and start your 10 day free Basics pack. Andy will talk you through everything, teaching you the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness. You will have the option to do a 3, 5 or 10 minute session each day. I encourage you to start with the 3 or 5 minute sessions as you become acquainted with the practice. Even moreso, I strongly encourage you to add this to your morning routine. I typically do it after my shower once I feel more awake. And above all, don’t stop. If you are going to stop, at least do it after completing the 10 days and you can say you gave it a shot.
After I completed the free Basics pack, I did it again. I then started looking for diversity in my guided meditations, so I downloaded the top rated meditation apps and took advantage of all of the free sessions to find my favorites. Of all the apps I tried, Headspace, Simple Habit and Stop Breathe & Think were my favorite…and in that order. I enjoyed them so much that I have since subscribed to unlock hundreds of meditations on everything from stress and anxiety to better sleep and focus.
Meditation started out as my catalyst to creating that inner peace with myself which has since turned into my anchor. A year ago when I first set out to become my own source of happiness, I did not realize that this was built around showing gratitude to myself. We are all our biggest critic, but sometimes we need to be a little kinder to ourselves. Meditation is not the only way to learn and experience the expression of self-gratitude and -appreciation, but it is a sure way to get there if you stick with it. So not just this time of the year, but every day of the year, don’t forget to give thanks to yourself and all you are doing. Be grateful for who you are, appreciate what you are doing, and always be kind, even on those days you fall short.