We all know there is a lot of added pressure during the holidays. We feel the need to have the prettiest tree, bring the best dish to the potluck, pick out the perfect gift for the boss, and so on, and so on. Every magazine, commercial, and news show highlights this, only adding to our stress. We are trying to keep up with the needs of our day to day lives with the added demands and requests that the holidays bring. Now add in wedding planning! You may feel completely overwhelmed by your countless to-do lists and calendar appointments. It doesn’t have to be this way! Below are three quick and simple exercises to bring you back to the present moment feeling lighter and brighter.
Practicing gratitude has been scientifically shown to reduce stress and anxiety, while allowing you to experience more joy and focus. Your mindset is an incredibly powerful tool in taking control of your life and how you feel throughout the day. It is the difference between being in the driver’s seat, or feeling as though you are being pulled around by obligations and expectations. Gratitude is creating awareness around and acknowledging the things in our lives that we appreciate. The idea of expressing gratitude may seem fluffy or hippie-dippie, but the effects are real.
Here are 3 simple ways to practice gratitude in your busy life:
1) Make it a part of your morning routine.
Set the alarm 15 minutes earlier (trust me, hitting the snooze button isn’t doing you any favors). Take a moment first thing, before you look at your phone, or respond to emails, or search Pinterest for “place-card holders”. How you act upon waking dictates your day, so create a little space between you and all that you must do. Sit down with a glass of warm water and lemon, or tea, or coffee. Take time to write down all that you are grateful for, in that moment. The thoughts and emotions may come easily. Or, you may be surprised that it is hard to think of anything – and that is ok, too! Try to get super specific. For example: “I am grateful for my Mom”, can be expressed as “I am grateful for my Mom’s great taste in flowers. I am grateful for her ability to speak her mind. I am grateful that she wants to be such a big part of our special day”. Can you feel the difference? Try to write 5 reasons for each person or subject you list. You can either write until you’ve filled a standard sheet of paper, or set a timer for 10-20 minutes. Take a deep breath and now go about your normal morning routine. Notice how taking just a few minutes to pause and focus on all of the good that you already have makes you feel. When we live our lives from a place of comparison and lack, we forget how incredibly blessed we already are – with or without shiny envelope inserts, or the perfect “something blue”.
2) Tell someone.
Whether it is your fiance, the caterer, or your future mother-in-law. Take a moment to call, to text, or to send an e-mail simply saying “thank you”. Tell them why you are grateful for their place in your life. Express this gratitude without any ties to a response or to your own ego. They will be so happy to hear from you without any strings attached. It will also be therapeutic for you to take a break from your day to share love and appreciation with someone important to you. Even in your basic interactions at the grocery store, or when shopping for bridesmaid gifts, pause to look the salesperson in the eyes and genuinely thank them for how they assisted you. If that doesn’t have you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, then get yourself a hot cocoa and try again!
3) Choose your words wisely.
The words you choose also have a huge impact on your feelings and emotional state. How you think about a task, a person, or a decision, determines how you approach it. If you view a situation as being a burden or an obligation, you won’t be very excited to “deal” with it. Again, bring the idea of creating space into these interactions. Pause and rephrase your internal and external dialogue surrounding the tasks in your day. How you do something is equally (if not more) important as what you are doing. When you find yourself wanting to complain about something or someone, first find one thing that you are grateful for in regards to the situation. Taking the moment to express appreciation will have you feel differently about the situation, and have you feeling more at ease. For example: “I am dreading calling the rental company. I don’t have a final count because my relatives in California won’t get back to me. And, I can’t decide which style chairs I want!” can become “I am so grateful for Mark at the rental company. I trust he will help me make the best decision. I am grateful to have so many family members who want to celebrate with us. I know it will all work out.” See the difference in the tone? Think of how statement one makes you feel versus statement two.
Your ability to express gratitude is responsible for how much joy and ease you experience. I encourage you to begin to incorporate these exercises into your day. Remind yourself how excited and happy you are to have so much to do, and for all of the love in your life. Embrace the abundance that these big events bring. Express gratitude to acknowledge how temporary it all is. Smile and move through your day feeling genuinely grateful. This is a lifelong practice that will support you every step of the way.
Jennifer Jakes is a Certified Health Coach who is on a mission to support people in living their best life. Through simple recipes, daily motivation, and 6-month programs she helps people achieve their wellness goals. J.J. loves to run, cook, bike, make homemade face masks, be in nature, laugh, play, dance, and find balance as a yogi. She is a student of the world and is always ready for the next book or adventure. Please join her at fastpacedfoodie.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.