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Holidays Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism Wellness

Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness
Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.

 

What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.

 

Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:

 

By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.

 

Practice Joy:

 

Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.

 

Practice Gratitude:


Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.

 

Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.

 

Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!

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Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery

Gratitude for the Thanksgivukkah Holiday

Thanksgivukkah? Yes, that’s right, there’s a rare convergence of two holidays happening this week because of a rare occurrence in the lunarsolar Hebrew calendar, whose dates reflect the moon phase and solar times of the year. I am definitely intrigued by the meshing of Thanksgiving and Chanukah and have been creatively thinking of culinary ways in which to blend the two. Pumpkin-pie cream-filled donuts and latkes are definitely entering this once-in-a-lifetime menu of obscurity.

 

Thanksgiving and Chanukah are holidays that encourage togetherness, and for both of these celebrations, gratitude is the main dish served. Additionally, these holidays invite the possibility of family gatherings. For some, this is exciting and long awaited; for others, it’s tantamount to walking into Mordor. Honoring either of those situations, and the feelings and sensations that arise is going to be key in navigating the holiday.

 

If you are freshly in recovery from mental health issues or substance abuse, and your trauma is in your face, being gentle with yourself is going to be imperative. Honor what you need, how you feel, and create some healthy boundaries for yourself. If going to a particular family member’s house is too triggering, see if you can go to a friend’s house or maybe invite friends over and make your own wild adventure of a meal.

 

If you are the parents of a child in treatment and this is your first holiday together, try to come into it with an open heart and mind. It won’t be easy for any of you, but there is a clear opportunity to create healthy, healing familial change. Both holidays are tied together with the idea of unity, togetherness, and community. Taking baby steps to develop new traditions can be eye opening and fun.

 

We are all grateful for something. Start making gratitude lists and checking them twice. Gratitude lists can be simple, complex, silly, or serious. Gratitude is gratitude and Thanksgivukkah is a perfect opportunity to get grateful.  Chanukah celebrates the miracle of light and the miraculous fact that a day’s worth of oil lasted for 8 days. Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest. Both of these conjoined make for a celebration of epic gratitude. Yes, epic. Mixing traditions and discovering their similarities is pretty darn cool.

 

So, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week or Thanksgivukkah, use it as a time for reflection on community and gratitude. You never know what nuggets of wisdom or moments of awakening and change will arise.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Teen Activism

The Power of a Gratitude List

If you’re down in the dumps or having a tough time getting out of an emotional rut, making a gratitude list can help. When things are difficult, it’s not uncommon to focus on the negative, particularly when it feels like “bad” is conspiring against you. Gratitude lists are simple, straightforward, and tremendously helpful.

 

Grab a notebook, and call it your “book of gratitude,” or whatever name suits you. Commit to writing down three things every day that you are grateful for. It can be anything:

 

  • Your dog
  • Oreo cookies
  • Laughter
  • Books
  • The sun
  • Wind
  • Your best friend
  • Your mom or dad or both
  • The earth
  • The ocean
  • Your breakfast cereal

 

See where I’m going with this? A gratitude list doesn’t have to be epic or profound. It just has to contain things, no matter how small, that inspire gratitude.

 

If you want to kick it up a notch, be of service. Volunteer for an organization you believe in. We sponsor Mutt Match dog adoption events twice a month, and I have to tell you, everyone who volunteers inadvertently begins to feel some gratitude. You can:

 

  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter
  • Volunteer for an organization you believe in. Check out Do Something for some interesting and inspiring organizations young people can get involved in.
  • Do a beach cleanup. Check out Heal the Bay.
  • Volunteer for a teen helpline or get involved in peer counseling.
  • Check out organizations directly associated with your community: maybe there’s a homeless population that you want to help, or perhaps your local library offers opportunities to read to younger kids.

 

The options for service and discovering gratitude are vast and endless. Helping others inspires gratitude, and it gets you out of yourself.  Creating a Gratitude list is really the beginning of what can be wonderful opportunities to be of service and feel better about yourself.

 

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Attitude of Gratitude

 

Photo credit: limevelyn

Gratitude: what makes gratitude—this “quality of being thankful” according to the Oxford Dictionary–such an integral part of one’s recovering life? Or rather, what makes it such a necessary part of having a happy life in recovery?  I am struck by how prone the world is to grouchiness, especially on Mondays.  For many, a weekend of merrymaking (even sober) does not leave many of us filled with appreciation come Mondy morning.  If anything, Monday tends to be synonymous with dread. It need not be so.

When we step foot on the path of recovery, we don’t do it because we’re having fun. We typically step foot on this path because we’ve lost our backsides. We are tired; we are lonely; we are uncomfortable in our skins; we are isolated; we are angry. One thing we are not prone to is gratitude. In recovery, be it from substance abuse or mental illness, we have an opportunity to develop this gratitude.  We start simply, because once we complicate things, we are dealing with a twisted cat’s cradle of emotions.

Auguston Burroughs succinctly says in Dry, “Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don’t go there alone.” Our heads really are a dangerous place at times, often acting as an environment full of judgment, fear, reactivity, defensiveness, competitiveness and so on.  We want to eliminate these thoughts so we don’t inadvertently turn our lives into wells of misery.

We do this simply:

  • Begin with a gratitude list: commit to writing down 3 things a day you are grateful for. Keep it simple: You can be grateful for anything, but write something down!
    • Share your list with another human being.
    • Be of service. Nothing works better for getting out of your head (that bad neighborhood!) than helping another human being.
    • Take commitments.
    • Volunteer.
    • Smile. As Mother Theresa says, “ Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person.”

We’re in recovery now and many of us break the odds every time we open our eyes in the morning. If that’s not reason for gratitude, I don’t know what is. To answer my own question, what makes gratitude is our willingness to acknowledge all that we have done and that we do instead of dwelling in all that we’ve lost. Yes, those things are real and valid, but the heart is one of the most resilient muscles in the body, and we will recover.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer

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