Happy November everyone! It seems like October really flew by, and now it’s already time to start planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This time of the year, everyone is talking about “the holiday spirit” and tossing around words like “thankfulness” and “joy”—but how much are we really focusing on those attitudes on a daily basis? And why is it so hard for us to focus on gratitude and maintaining a positive attitude once Thanksgiving is past? I know I personally have a tendency to zero in on tiny little things that irritate or upset me and then stew over them endlessly. And yet, when you focus on the positive, you’re bound to be happier (it’s science, people!). People who are more grateful also tend to feel better physically and have better relationships with those around them. Who doesn’t want that?
It also seems like this time of year highlights a sharp contrast between the “haves” and “have-nots”, and I don’t just mean the people who are well-to-do financially and those who are poorer or even homeless. A lot of people spend the holidays without the love of friends and family, or face a long gloomy winter that highlights mental or physical health problems. I know I have a TON to be grateful for in my everyday life—a warm home, a loving family, shelves full of books to read—and even though I see almost daily reminders of people who are hungry, hurting, or friendless, it’s so easy to start taking all of those blessings for granted.
So this month, I’m kicking off a gratitude challenge on Instagram. Each day I’ll post something I’m grateful for that day with the hashtag #gratefullifeNov. I’d love it if any of you want to follow along! If you don’t have Insta, you could do this on Twitter or Facebook, too. There is no daily prompt, just snap a pic of something you’re thankful for and share the story behind it. (Maybe it’s a mug of hot tea on a rainy day or a surprise card in the mail—it could be anything!) And be sure to tag me so I can see all your posts!
I think taking note of all the little things I have to be grateful for will make me happier overall, and if you join in I hope it will help you have a happier November as well. <3
I think the quote today (below) really sums it all up! I used to have a problem with thinking I had to stay busy in perpetua, and I would feel really guilty if I spent too much time relaxing with a cup of tea or reading a magazine or doing some other “frivolous” activity. Now I have no problem taking that time for myself to just relax and enjoy the moment. These little “pauses” help me refresh and refuel so I can focus on the things that are really important to me.
I’ve also realized that prioritizing is so, so important, not only for organization, but for happiness. Not everything has to be tackled at once. Sometimes my number one priority is to take a walk outside or to snuggle with the cats and read, so if that means taking care of a handful of truly demanding tasks (publishing a blog post, or paying a bill) and letting less-important things slide for a day. (Do I really have to clean the dishwasher right this instant? Probably not.) It’s also made me realize that there really is no excuse for not fitting in things like a workout or time to eat a proper meal–I just have to prioritize those things instead of making excuses for why I’m “too busy”.
Quote: “Busyness is not a reason for not getting other things done. It is an excuse for not claiming your true priorities.” — Alan Cohen
Today’s challenge was to take a walk outside and “find joy in the ordinary”. It’s funny that this popped up, because this week we’ve actually had mild temps (forties) and sunny weather (gasp!), and so I’ve been able to get outside for a leisurely neighborhood stroll to enjoy the weather. It feels so good to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on my face, instead of sitting inside–and after the cold, wet, grey weather we’ve been having, it was quite heavenly! Very hard to go back inside.
Quote: “Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.” — Antonio Machado
Day seventeen of the challenge involved listing ten things you’re grateful for, and honestly I can think of way more than ten off the top of my head, from the silly to the serious: access to clean water, abundant food, my cats, freedom to read what I want without repercussions (education, especially for women, is not always so widely accessible in the world). I’m grateful for the love of my family. I’m grateful that the sun is shining today, that I’m fairly healthy, and that the computer hasn’t crashed on me today. I’m grateful that we have heat (unlike one of my friends, who is trying to fix his furnace for the second time this winter) and that I got a really cute shirt on sale for $6 on Saturday.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. When you start thinking about all the things you have to be grateful for, it makes all the “unhappy” or “un-thankful-for” parts of your life seem to recede.
Quote: “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder
For day eighteen, we’re supposed to practice saying “no” to commitments or invitations if they’re not something truly interesting/enlightening. The idea is to be more conscious of how you spend your time. I used to feel really guilty about turning down invitations but since I read Greg McKeown’s Essentialism last year (seriously, this book will change your life) I’m much more comfortable saying “no, thank you” when I just don’t feel like accepting an invitation or opportunity will make me happy. For example, this week I was invited to a midday party that would have thrown a serious wrench in my work and sleep schedule, so I said “no”. Previously I would have felt horribly guilty for turning down a friend’s invitation, but these days I realize that if something will sap my energy or just isn’t something I really want to do, then I need to say “no” and focus my resources on the things that really interest me. (And yes–some days those things will include tea, reading and naps, in exactly that order.)
Quote: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I have to confess, I’m terrible at “single-tasking”. I get distracted too easily, plus I feel like doing one thing at a time leaves a lot of wasted time in my day. I’m getting better at single-tasking things like mealtimes, but I admit that it’s almost impossible to give up multi-tasking in my day to day life–watching TV while riding the stationary bike, checking email on my phone while eating breakfast, that sort of thing. I just need to have my mind occupied so if I’m doing something mundane, you can be sure I’ll find a way to combine it with another task!
Quote for the day: “If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Whew! I fell a little behind on posting this week. Let’s recap the past few days:
Day thirteen: “Be a more conscious consumer”–I try to buy my books used from the library or the thrift store instead of shopping new, and we shop locally whenever we can. My local natural foods store just celebrated their fifteen-year anniversary, so I headed down there for groceries and to say hi to the friendly staff.
Quote: “Buy less. Choose well.” — Vivienne Westwood
Day fourteen: “Practice deep listening”–my husband and I try to sit and talk about our day each morning or evening when we see each other. It’s a relief for the person talking to get their day off their chest, but that requires the other person to truly listen instead of tuning out and nodding through the conversation.
Quote: “When we listen to people, our language softens. Listening may be the cardinal act of giving… I think it is the source of peace.” — Paul Hawken
Day fifteen: “Share a homemade meal with someone”–I’m making burritos to share with a coworker!
Quote: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard
This is a good one for me, because sometimes my default settings gets stuck in “complaining mode”. Today I’ll try to kick that habit. :)
Quote for the day (from the daily prompt e-mail): “The hard must become habit. The habit must become easy. The easy must become beautiful.” — Doug Henning
For day ten of the challenge, we’re supposed to carve out some quality time with a loved one. I actually did this today, with a morning exercise routine and a healthy lunch with the husband.
Quote for the day (from the daily prompt e-mail): “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” — Ursula K. Le Guin
For day eleven, we’re supposed to create a daily ritual; I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing yoga each day, so that’s what I’ll work on for this prompt. It makes me feel better physically and helps calm my mind. (Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun!)
Quote for the day (from the daily prompt e-mail): “Sometimes… the smallest drops in the bucket make the biggest ripples.” — A.M. Hodgson