Self-care strategy #19: choosing to feel grateful

Gifts abound

A wise friend once told me “people have time and money for what they want to have time and money to do.” Over the years I’ve seen how true that is. Each day we choose how we will spend our time and money and whom we’ll spend it with. No matter how much we have, it seems like there is never enough of it. If we think about it long enough, we might find that what we have is enough. In our culture, we are taught that we need more. We need more money. We need more time. We need a bigger house or a nicer car. We need a lot of friends. We need a better job or a nicer boss. We need a newer TV or kitchen appliance. We need the latest version of a gadget. We need, need, need. Perhaps it’s more like, we want, want, and then want some more.

Focusing on what we always need or want creates the belief that no matter how much we have; we’ll never have enough of it. When we identify with that belief we might start to feel anxious, needy, empty, or lonely. We then create the propensity to behave in ways that are impulsive; in order to cope with those feelings and fill the emptiness we might be experiencing, we feel an urge to acquire anything that can soothe us, even for a moment. It can create a constant seeking and searching for something to make us feel better. Often that something is unhealthy for us in the long term (think drug, alcohol or food addiction, gambling problems, compulsive shopping habits).

However, there is another way to feel fulfilled. We have choices. We can choose to focus on what we do have and feel satisfied. We can choose to notice the people in our lives who are there for us, and who genuinely care, rather than the people who are unavailable. We can appreciate the many gifts we do have by recognizing them and being grateful. We can be thankful ever day of the year, not just during Thanksgiving. This daily practice of refocusing our perspective and noticing what is, rather than what needs to be, can have a profound impact on how we feel by shifting how we view ourselves, others and the world. We can consciously be thankful for the gifts we have, and we can feel grateful. When we are grateful, we feel whole.

So starting today and every day for the next week, practice having an attitude of gratitude by following these 3 easy steps:

  1. Stop whatever it is you are doing, have a seat, and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few moments to notice what you have in your life that makes you so grateful to be alive right now. Think of who or what you have in your life that provides you with safety, comfort and joy.
    Here are some questions you can answer to help get you started: Whom do you love? Who cares for you and seeks you out to see how you are doing? What’s your most cherished possession? What do you love about it? What have you accomplished this past year that makes you feel proud of yourself? What makes it worth getting up every day? Who or what brings a huge smile to your face?
  3. Reflect on your answers. Notice how it feels in your body when you think about these answers. Know that each moment of every day you have a choice about what you focus on: what you already have that fulfills you or what’s missing from your life. When we choose the former, we can experience long lasting joy and satisfaction. It’s your choice.





Healing through therapy: an act of self care

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our trust. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals human spirit.
-e.e. cummings

We’ve all had our fair share of challenges in our lives.  I believe our strength arises from overcoming difficult times through the experience of healthy relationships. Therapy provides an opportunity to explore our inner thoughts and feelings and how we interact with others in the world. In therapy, we have a chance to form a trusting relationship that honors our inherent dignity and worth. It allows us to experience the true vulnerability we feel when we become emotionally intimate with another.

Therapy has been a tool for me since early adulthood. I have had good, bad, and mediocre therapists. My first therapist was the one who inspired and encouraged me to face my fears and go for what I love. My second good therapist came to me at a time when I really needed to work on the next level of change for myself. I was unhappy and didn’t know why. I knew I was repeating unhealthy patterns, but couldn’t figure it out. Therapy helped me see clearly what was going on and where it was coming from. I had an eye opening moment when I realized why I was repeating the same pattern over and over again all those years. I had not been ready for real change in my life until I recognized and worked on healing wounds from the past. Therapy helped me face the pain so I could work through it and heal. I was then ready for the next stage of my life, finding my life partner and having a child.

Marriage and motherhood have changed me. It’s changed the way I view my place in the world and how I perceive others. It’s forced me to examine how I interact with my community, extended family and the world at large. The experience of motherhood has helped reshape my beliefs and discover what values truly matter. When I was childless I only had to focus on myself. My only task was to do what was best for me. Since having my son I’m now looking at every experience through a different lens. When making important decisions, I automatically ask what is in the best interest of my son. I’ve learned that sometimes what is in his best interest is for me to practice self-care, which is an act of self-love. By allowing myself to take care of my needs, I’m teaching him one of life’s most important and valuable lessons: we need to know how to love and care for ourselves, before we can unconditionally love another.

The process of self-discovery to learn what’s most important to me, and prioritize my decisions has not been easy. I’ve been working closely with my current therapist for several months now. Marilyn Brine Gilmour is teaching me how to work through difficult thoughts and feelings that arise from a painful past, a stressful present and an uncertain future.  She’s teaching me to trust my inner wisdom and to use it consciously, so that I can heal, grow and live the life my heart and soul desire. In this relationship, I can be honest, speak my truth, and feel cared about.  I don’t have to hide any parts of myself and it feels so liberating!

Therapy is one of the most useful tools we can use to heal past wounds and make informed decisions in the present. We learn we don’t have power over our past, but can choose behaviors consciously and wisely now, to create a new future.

Through therapy, I am healing. Through healing, I am helping myself. Through helping myself, I am helping others.



Are you listening?

Inspired by the Service Provider Retreat hosted by The Coming Home Project
April 2011, The Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA

Life is happening. We need to pay attention

This weekend I met my brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, mothers and fathers, and I heard their wisdom.

I felt their love and tasted the sweetness of true connection.

I heard the howl of the wind this morning, and the whispering song of the birds, exclaiming “Life is now! It is happening. Pay close attention.”

You are home.

We have only these moments.

We bear a past filled with both suffering and joy but we have a powerful presence to also experience.

It’s in this presence that I feel truly connected.

It’s in this presence I choose to live, in which I create new memories to take with me into the future.

It is this moment to which I belong and it is this moment I feel whole again.

I learn to let go, one mindful action at a time, and I savor every morsel of every moment that brings me peace and in which I feel loved and accepted and in which I belong.

I belong to this earth and it belongs to me.

I am strong like the oak tree and can offer shade and comfort, but I also take in the glorious sunshine that is all around me and soak in the rain that sustains me.

I stand firm in the solid ground that nourishes me so that I may remain resilient for those who need a place of respite, including myself.

I see that I am not alone.

I have other resilient oaks who came before me and who stand next to me, offering their strength and endurance and their wisdom and love.

I belong here.

I feel at peace and, I too, want to sing to the world:

“Are you listening? Life is happening. Pay close attention”.

-Sofia P. Reddy