Two easy ways to have a Happy Holiday Season

Taking care of your happiness is especially important during the holiday season. Two “mental concepts” are essential for your own happiness and mental well-being. Here is a repost of an original post from the Happiness part of the Bootcamp program about the two concepts: Empathy and Gratitude.

Empathy and Gratitude

Two concepts repeatedly turn up when you try and find out the secret of “happy” people: empathy and gratitude. They are also essential to the practice of mindfulness. Why specifically these two? Today I invite you to try them out for yourself – ad see how practicing empathy and gratitude can change your mental “position”, and help you become a more happy person.

Empathy is trying to see, feel and experience the world through the eyes of someone else. As so many concepts in the bootcamp, this seems a really easy thing to do – but is very hard when you put it into practice.
On the other hand, once mastered, it allows you to be more sensitive and open to the feelings of other people, which in turn will make it much easier for you to communicate with them. As you develop empathy, you’ll notice how people increasingly change from being aggressive to open with you, because you learn to treat them the way they want to be treated. This can be a truly powerful motivator for people, and is fundamental to building strong relationships. At the same time, it will help to deal with negativity from people: simply by understanding “where they are coming from”, and trying to help them, many negative situations will become much less stressful – and can even turn out to be an opportunity to grow for everyone.

Think of how often it is easy to just be annoyed at someone who is unfriendly, taking the last seat on the train or complaining. But while it is easy to simply react annoyed, it is often better to stop, think and … practice empathy. You’ll be surprised at the reactions you are getting!

The first activity today is to try and react to three unpleasant or annoying situations with empathy.
To do this, when you experience a situation where you feel annoyed today, try to take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to react to whatever it is annoys you – or judge the person who is annoying you.
Simply switch into mindfulness mode – but instead of focusing o your ow mind, try and focus on the other person: experience how they are experiencing the situation. Imagine actively that you are that person in this moment. Maintain their point of view for as long as you can, especially when you are talking to them or are close to them.
Once you are back to “yourself”, ask yourself how the experience was different for you and them. See how experiencing the same situation from “the other” side has changed your view of the situation.

The second activity for today focuses on gratitude. As a popular saying says: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy”. Being grateful is, luckily, a lot easier than training empathy. However, we simply often lack the time or motivation to do this important task. So, as a second activity for today, I’ll ask you to write down three things you are particularly grateful for about today – just before you go to bed. This can be things related to anything that happened today. Even if it was a really bad day, I’m sure you’ll find at least three things to be grateful for (and probably many, many more once you start thinking about it!).

By simply stoping and asking yourself “what am I grateful for today”, many people notice how their mind immediately switches from the stress they may be experiencing during the day to a much more positive frame. This is a very powerful little tool: you can use it anytime you feel stressed or annoyed – or even just a bit unhappy: simply stop for a second. Take a deep breath and list three things you are grateful for in this moment or today. Try this out over the next few days – and see how your mind will slowly change and more readily focuses on the positive. You can even have certain “check-ins” during the day: for example, try having a gratefulness moment during your lunch break tomorrow.

Two little tricks today, but both are potentially life changing. I know they are not very easy – especially in the heat of the moment when you are annoyed or feeling stressed. But sometimes this little stop and think can really make a big difference.

Day 2: Gratitude

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy! (Anonymous) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Understand why gratitude is so important for self-love and how to develop this skill.

Following on from yesterday, the main area of concern is thus self-esteem. In particular, the aim of the program is to develop not just esteem (it is always there in a form or another) – but a specific type of esteem: Accepting and unconditional love. A love that recognises the little problems, but doesn’t loose sight of the bigger picture. In other words, a love that is based on a realistic evaluation of yourself. Often self-esteem programs fall into the trap of trying to foster self-love based on the principles of “I’m great, therefore I’m great”. It seems easy to repeat this a hundred times and eventually believe it. But the results are less then stellar: either people just force their deficiencies into hiding even more, as they are scrambling to be as truly perfect as they claim to be. Other people start to believe in their ultimate perfection – and develop a completely narcissistic outlook. In this program we want to avoid both: the aim is to deeply and truly love yourself.

Many psychologists, philosophers and scientists have tried to find a magic formula that can achieve this delicate balancing act: The result seems to be that there are a five simple mental tools in which we can achieve this. These five are gratitude, kindness, caring, forgiving and generosity – both for your yourself as well as for others. Together these five lead to a positive outlook on and attitude towards life and others, which in turn is the basis of happiness.

For today, let us focus on the first one: gratitude. Easily put, gratitude is simply to stop, smell the roses and remind yourself how good it is that you can smell them. In short: remind yourself of the good things in life – right now. Gratitude doesn’t mean forgetting about the problems you face or that are around us. It just means focusing not only on the problems but also on the good things. Or in short: getting a more balanced outlook. Of course, it can be difficult to be grateful when you are loosing a job, the days are grey or life just doesn’t seem to be fair. Remember, gratitude isn’t to talk those problems away – nor will it make these problems go away. But if you look deeply enough, I’m sure you’ll always find a few little things to be grateful for, that can help to put the bad things in perspective.

The great thing about gratitude is that it is (relatively) easy to learn, and with a bit of repetition easily turns into a habit. Even better, the gratitude-skill can then be “recalled’ and used as a tool in stressful situations, those situations that could otherwise really get you down. What I’m saying is, once you learn the skill, you can defuse many situations by using gratitude skills to give you some time to breath and put things into perspective. Coincidentally, performing gratitude regularly also increases sleep quality and even has the power of decreasing sickness symptoms (possibly via a strong link to making you happier and loving yourself, which really has a big impact there!). So there really are some very convincing arguments to start some gratitude training right now.

Of course, real gratitude is a bit more than just saying: “thank you, at least I’m alive”. In many ways such a statement is actually the opposite of good gratitude: it implicitly assumes that good things (such being alive) are a birthright. And that is a big fallacy in gratitude: because if you assume you have the right to something, you are most likely not grateful for it!

So what makes “good” gratitude? Here are a few tips to make gratitude more powerful:

1. Really savour the moment
Really take the time to stop, even just for a few seconds or a deep breath, when something happens that you enjoy. Savour the moment!

2. Learn to be specific
Learn to be really specific when you express your gratitude: it helps to make the gratitude “stick” in the brain. So instead of simply saying something like “It is a wonderful day today”, cultivate the habit of saying “Today is really wonderful, because the sun is shining, the smell of roses is in the air, I have some time to be outside…”

3. Remember the most powerful gratitude is showing gratitude towards other people
What makes gratitude most gratifying? It seems the most powerful effect of gratitude happens is when you actually don’t look at what good happens to you, especially in terms of material or worldly things or events. The most powerful gratitude is when you feel and share it with a person that has done something to make you feel good, especially a person you are close to.

Take-home message for today: Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to achieve self-love and happiness.

Activity
You will need your notebook.
Time: just a few minutes extra during the day plus the reflection.

For today take one of each of the three tips for gratitude, and put them into practice.
For today take one of each of the three tips for gratitude, and put them into practice.
1. Really savour a moment that you are having a positive experience (like eating something you like, having a quiet moment on a busy day etc)
2. Find one thing to be really grateful for today and describe it in as much detail as possible.
3. Show gratitude to a friend, colleague or loved one. Express specifically why you are grateful. E.g. Don’t just say “thank you” when someone brings you a coffee in the office. Instead say “thank you so much for taking the time and making the coffee and bringing it to me.”

At the end of the day, use your notebook to briefly reflect on the different experiences you had with gratitude and how you felt about being grateful in three different ways. You may also want to think about incorporating regular gratitude into your daily life. Some people find it helpful to create regular gratitude check-ins or have a gratitude diary. For example, it may be an idea to write down three things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep.

How were the activities for you?

Best thing about each of the activities combined and overall?

What did you learn from these three ways of showing gratitude?

End of the Day 2 preview. Day 1 and Day 3 are also available online as previews.

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
building love for myself. Thank you!”

The full workshop with all activities is available as a digital download directly from here


30 Days of self-loveor buy the book now from any good bookseller.
ISBN 978-1546592815 (soft cover)   978-1370141586 (eBook)
To order online – via bookfinder
Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR
Amazon Kindle: USUKCADEFRITNLINJPBRAU

Day 19: Empathy and Gratitude

Two concepts repeatedly turn up when you try and find out the secret of “happy” people: empathy and gratitude. They are also essential to the practice of mindfulness. Why specifically these two? Today I invite you to try them out for yourself – ad see how practicing empathy and gratitude can change your mental “position”, and help you become a more happy person.

Empathy is trying to see, feel and experience the world through the eyes of someone else. As so many concepts in the bootcamp, this seems a really easy thing to do – but is very hard when you put it into practice.
On the other hand, once mastered, it allows you to be more sensitive and open to the feelings of other people, which in turn will make it much easier for you to communicate with them. As you develop empathy, you’ll notice how people increasingly change from being aggressive to open with you, because you learn to treat them the way they want to be treated. This can be a truly powerful motivator for people, and is fundamental to building strong relationships. At the same time, it will help to deal with negativity from people: simply by understanding “where they are coming from”, and trying to help them, many negative situations will become much less stressful – and can even turn out to be an opportunity to grow for everyone.

Think of how often it is easy to just be annoyed at someone who is unfriendly, taking the last seat on the train or complaining. But while it is easy to simply react annoyed, it is often better to stop, think and … practice empathy. You’ll be surprised at the reactions you are getting!

The first activity today is to try and react to three unpleasant or annoying situations with empathy.
To do this, when you experience a situation where you feel annoyed today, try to take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to react to whatever it is annoys you – or judge the person who is annoying you.
Simply switch into mindfulness mode – but instead of focusing o your ow mind, try and focus on the other person: experience how they are experiencing the situation. Imagine actively that you are that person in this moment. Maintain their point of view for as long as you can, especially when you are talking to them or are close to them.
Once you are back to “yourself”, ask yourself how the experience was different for you and them. See how experiencing the same situation from “the other” side has changed your view of the situation.

The second activity for today focuses on gratitude. As a popular saying says: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy”. Being grateful is, luckily, a lot easier than training empathy. However, we simply often lack the time or motivation to do this important task. So, as a second activity for today, I’ll ask you to write down three things you are particularly grateful for about today – just before you go to bed. This can be things related to anything that happened today. Even if it was a really bad day, I’m sure you’ll find at least three things to be grateful for (and probably many, many more once you start thinking about it!).

By simply stoping and asking yourself “what am I grateful for today”, many people notice how their mind immediately switches from the stress they may be experiencing during the day to a much more positive frame. This is a very powerful little tool: you can use it anytime you feel stressed or annoyed – or even just a bit unhappy: simply stop for a second. Take a deep breath and list three things you are grateful for in this moment or today. Try this out over the next few days – and see how your mind will slowly change and more readily focuses on the positive. You can even have certain “check-ins” during the day: for example, try having a gratefulness moment during your lunch break tomorrow.

Two little tricks today, but both are potentially life changing. I know they are not very easy – especially in the heat of the moment when you are annoyed or feeling stressed. But sometimes this little stop and think can really make a big difference.

If this makes a difference for you, why not share this with everyone? Or do you have other tips of how to stop yourself from stressing out in a situation? Please use the comments function below… it is always great to hear from you!