I cant believe it is already November! I thought, since we are in the month where we all sit around a table and give thanks while stuffing our faces crazy, that I would reflect on everything I have been thankful for this year.
As many of you may know, gratitude plays a big part in my life. Every morning I wake up, feed my dog, do a little yoga, and journal: 5 statements of gratitude, 3 tasks I want to get done at work, and 3 tasks I want to get done personally. I started this morning routine in the beginning of the year, and it has improved my quality of life by leaps and bounds. Giving myself that little extra time in the morning to meditate and reflect on all the things in my life that are going right, and outline my goals for the day, has been a total game changer. Obviously the benefits of gratitude are well documented in the scientific community as well, research has shown that gratitude can:
Improve relationships and leads to new opportunities for connections with others;
Improve physical health;
Increase happiness and decreases negative emotions like jealousy, regret and resentment;
Enhance empathy and reduce aggression;
Aid in sleeping better, less restless nights;
Raise self-esteem; and,
I am going to come out with two prompts a week (Monday and Thursday), focused on a theme centered around practicing gratitude in nature. All you need to do is take 5-15 minutes out of your day, to journal on the gratitude prompt, preferably outside. Start each journal prompt by saying “I am grateful for [keyword], because …” and just write down everything that comes to mind. Make sure you let your thoughts roam free and try to keep your tone positive.
Many of my prompts will have a specific action that I am going to "challenge" you to do within the next couple days. This is a way to actually practice gratitude, rather than just journaling on it. You don't have to do my specific challenge, but anything within the spirit of the challenge that makes you feel grateful.
The Power of Gratitude is in the sharing!
The 2018 Wild Women Gratitude Challenge
I will be posting regularly on social media my gratitude prompts but in case you want to look forward, below I have outlined the challenge. You can do a few or all the challenges, jump in and out of the challenge whenever you want. And please feel free to share whatever you want or add to my list!
Week 1: Awareness
Our lives have become so busy, especially as working women. Sometimes we focus so much on our next project, what we are going to eat for dinner, or that big trip we have planned next week, we lose sight of the here and now. What actions do you take to bring yourself back into the moment? Try carving out some time this week to be fully engaged in something — a moment in nature — and appreciate how it feels to do so.
Challenge 1 Get Active
Get outside and be active, go for a run, a walk, or a hike. But try to at least get your heart rate up for 15 minutes. How do you feel afterward, tired, accomplished, sore, maybe even a little euphoric.
I am grateful I give myself time to be active in nature, nourishing my mind and body.
Challenge 2 Take a Moment to Reflect
Go out into nature, maybe you have a favorite spot in your backyard, the beach, or a pond by your house, and focus on where you are and what is going on around you. What are the colors, smells, sounds all around you. How does the ground feel under your feet or the sand between your toes. Bask in the senses around you. You are now living in the moment.
I am grateful for the the beauty of the sunset, the smell of the salt air, and the distant sound of smell pebbles gently rolling under the waves, this time in nature allows me to be still and be thankful for the moment.
Week 2: Wanderlust
When is the last time you ditched the google map and got lost on a back road or ignored your to do list and opted for that ominous trail you always wanted to explore but never did because you didn't know where it would lead you. This kind of wandering can lead to some pretty amazing inspiration and discovery - and frankly can be quite addicting. This week give yourself time to embrace those urges for wander and travel and just see where the road leads you.
Challenge 3 Wander to Create
I am sure you've heard the phrase "train of thought," often we say this in a negative way, "oh sorry, I lost my train of thought." But what if we didn't apologize for letting our minds wander and what if we took those small thoughts/hopes/dreams and let them play out in our head? What would we be able to create when we put no restrictions on our thought process because it would "take took much time", "cost too much money", or was just not "realistic". What would our reality look like then? This week take some time to embrace your mind wandering.
Having trouble really letting go? Try a easy technique called Free Walking Meditation, its all about letting your own inner awareness direct you without conscious thought. This can be done really anywhere, but try and find a large swath of at least semi-quite woods, also bring along with you a map and a compass so you can find your way back while wondering. The object of this exercise is to wander without any particular destination in mind. Walk into the woods, leave the man-made world behind, get away from children yelling or the sound of cars, and let the direction you are moving in happen by itself. Observe where you end up, where is your wandering mind leading you. Drop all goals and destinations and just be in the woods, in the stillness, with your sense. Notice the colors, smells, temperature and feel of the forest. Just move, and breathe, and smell, and hear, and let the woods call to you. As you wander is anything coming to mind? Where does the forest lead your mind? Do you have this thought often? What does the reality you create in your mind look like? and how does it compare to your present reality? Put no restrictions on your wandering mind, get lost, you may be interested in what you discover.
I am grateful for my wandering mind, which continually is getting lost in thought, teaching me knew things, and always discovering.
Challenge 4 Discover the Unknown
Often when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone we discover something new. Why do you think people are so obsessed with travel? Yes, it makes you look cool on Instagram and you get to see beautiful places that you may not have ever discovered. But at the heart of it people are experiencing something new, and that exploration can lead to new discoveries about yourself and your abilities. But you don't have to travel to a distant destination to get this feeling. What is that activity that you have been dying to do but never did because it was too scary or hard, is there a nearby trail you have been eyeing but too nervous to go down because you don't know where it leads. Have you always wanted to surf or scuba dive but thought it may be too dangerous. This week I challenge you to tackle that activity or trail, do something that takes you outside of your comfort zone, into the unknown, you may surprise yourself.
I am grateful for being brave and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Week 3: Self-Care
Self care is a big buzz phrase lately, and for good reason, as women it is in our nature to care for others and push our own needs aside. As women our primary focus is to provide, provide for our kids, husbands, boyfriends, work, parents/brothers/sisters, friends, pets....honestly the list is endless. But in between all that care for others, often times we forget to take time out for ourselves. We are so busy with our jam packed schedules and so tired, we start to cut corners and take the easy solution, we eat out instead of taking time to cook something healthy, we skip workouts, and we are too busy to take 5 minutes for quiet and reflection. Many of us, whether we know it or not, carry the belief that self care is selfish. But the funny thing is, by neglecting ourselves, we are actually also neglecting those we love. By giving yourself time, you avoid stress and burnout making you more productive, focused, and happier.
Challenge 5 Life Balance
If you could magically have a few hours this week to dedicate to a project or activity, centered on you, what would you do? Maybe it is as simple as meditating for 15 minutes every morning, maybe there is a book you have really wanted to check-out, a daily walk you can never get to, or maybe a romantic dinner with your partner. For many of us, we will know what this project/activity is right away, there may be multiple things. Now that you have determined one thing you would like, lets find a way to make room for it in your life this week. There are a couple ways to make time in your schedule to do those things that have been lingering, one is to let some things go, another is to ask for help. Do you really need to answer that email right away or could you hire a house cleaner or dog walker to do some more of your menial chores, is there room for greater efficiency in your schedule? Find that space, that space for yourself to allow more time for yourself and find balance. Then use that time to focus on your project and you. What does it feel like to have this balance? Are you finding yourself more efficient, maybe more kind?
I am grateful that I find the time in my schedule to take care of myself.
Challenge 6 Digital Detox
I read a statistic the other day that a person checks their phone 47 times a day, and that this equates to looking at your phone for 11 years over an average persons lifetime. There are a lot of benefits to our phones, it keeps us more connected to people we may have otherwise lost touch with, social media can be a great form of expression and communication, also it helps us keep our lives organized better. But many of us are abusing our phone use and there are some pretty serious drawbacks.
I personally did not realize how addicted I was to my phone until I left for a week long trip to Panama where there was no cell phone service and spotty wifi (if any), the first couple days I almost felt like I was going through withdrawals. I would check my phone even though there was no service and I would get anxiety thinking about who was trying to get a hold of me. But the week long phone hiatus turned out to be great for me, when I got back I felt even more refreshed, my anxiety levels were way down and I just didn't feel the urge to be joined at the hip by my phone all the time.
This weekend, I challenge you to unplug....like really unplug. Go out into nature where you do not get any cell phone service or wifi, where you are literally forced to go off the grid, and see how you feel after a couple hours? Do you have anxiety or stress thinking about who is trying to get a hold of you? Could you even make it a couple hours or did you have to drive out of your way to get service? Learn how your relationship with your phone may be a little unhealthy, and when you get back to reality maybe take a couple steps to ensure that relationship will stay positive. For me, I do a 1 hour no phone detox every day the first hour I wake up and the hour before i go to bed, but you could turn off your notification (keep them on for important people only), not check your phone during meals, make your bedroom a tech free zone.
I am grateful that I am able to use technology in a positive way, that enhances my relationships and makes me more productive.
Week 4: Family & Friends - Connections
Its the week of Thanksgiving! So of course this week I am going to ask you to focus on being grateful for your family and friends. If you are like me your friends are actually your family, and your family are your friends, so they are kind of one in the same. These are the people and relationships in your life that are priceless. Take time to recognize how lucky you are to have these people in your life, better yet, let them know.
Challenge 7 Family Matters
I'm going to ask you to do something hard this week in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Family is complicated, to say the least. Spending time in nature has an extremely powerful effect on family dynamics. Doing something as simple as taking a short walk together can give you the time to reconnect. This week focus on a family member that you may have a troublesome relationship with that you would like to mend or overcome. Then think about your fondest memories with this person, what activities did you two love to do together. Reach out to this person and suggest to go out and do that activity, maybe it is as simple as going for a walk or getting an ice cream together (who doesn't have fond memories over ice cream). If you can't get together because of distance or time, send them a picture of you two doing that activity together, let them know how much you cherish those memories.
I am grateful for having such an awesome role model to look up to. To my sister, I will always think you are the coolest, most successful, beautiful, giving, vulnerable, and silly women I know.
Challenge 8 A Great Friend and an Awesome Adventure
I often say a great friend and an awesome adventure is all I need in life. Grab a friend, or a couple, and go on an awesome adventure, make some memories.
I am so extremely grateful to all the amazing women in my life, who inspire me to adventure more and who make the hard falls a little softer.
Week 5: Growth
We are all always looking to grow, be better people, partners, friends, employees. Spend time this week giving thanks for everything you have learned and how much you have grown this year. Reflect on how do you want to expand upon that growth as the year comes to a close, and what can you do for yourself now to set yourself up for ultimate growth in the new year.
Challenge 9 Embrace Failure
Failure is scary, really it hurts, and at the time when it is happening, there could be nothing worse in the world. Believe me, I know, I've failed, a lot. But for a lot of years, I did everything I could not to fail, I would strong arm jobs, relationships, ideas, even simple things like outfits, just so I didn't have to admit to myself that I had failed. Until everything fell down all at once, I had two solid years of pure failure. The life I had been trying so hard to keep together was crumbling. Everything down to the coping mechanisms I was using to deal with those failures wasn't working. Reflecting back on those two years, a couple years later, I am so grateful for those tough times, because they forced me to let go and re-create myself, to grow into the person I am actually meant to be. Look back on the past year, are there any failures you have had? Try to express gratitude for what you may have learned from these failures or even better what you have yet to learn.
I am grateful that my life is not perfect, I am grateful for all my missteps, and I am especially grateful for all the opportunities that have followed.
Challenge 10 Make a Date with Your Higher Self
The higher self has a variety of definitions, but I think of your higher self as the true you, the real you, the part of you that helps you to keep on track with your life purpose and in touch with your passion and joy. Although, I am definitely no expert on the higher self. Actually, I was only recently introduced to my higher self during a guided meditation in Panama. But, since that meditation I have expanded my ability to communicate with my higher self by giving myself regularly scheduled "dates" with my higher self. I know it sounds a little hokey but just go with it for a second. By taking a few minutes our of my week to sit and just listen to that little voice in my head, my gut feeling, my intuition I have empowered myself to love more intentionally and consciously. I have focused more on the things i want to do rather than just what is right in front of me, and I have started to create a life of passion.
So this week take some time to set a date with your higher self, I know it sounds crazy but just go with me here. Find a space that is quite and calm, I like the beach, and make yourself comfy. Close your eyes and image a tranquil, calm place, your place, your higher self's home. Then approach your higher self, you can image your higher self as a yourself, a presence, or maybe just a warm light. Notice what does your higher self look like, what is she wearing, does she have any possessions or animals with her, is there something she has to show you? Be open to what your higher self has to communicate with you and remember to pay special attention to how the signals she is giving you make you feel.
I embrace my higher self, and am grateful for all she has to show me.