Growing in Gratitude Builds Stronger Bonds of Love
Counting up Blessings
We all know we should ‘count our blessings’; but did you realize that doing so gives tons of positive effects, including promoting loving feelings and happiness?
Half Full or Half Empty?
Finding “the positives” is easier for some than others. We’re naturally wired to either be in one of two categories; we see the glass half full or half empty. My husband is the former. I am the latter. But I’ve discovered that it’s possible to grow and expand the “gratitude” muscle. If you’d like to enlarge your capacity for appreciation, check out these following ideas.
1.) Ready, aim, focus
You may want to set an intention for yourself to focus on cultivating gratitude for at least month. We generally hit what we aim for. Start by focusing on the things YOU are doing that are commendable.
2.)Smile, this is your life!
The incredible thing is that these smiles don't even need to be deeply felt. But in the very act themselves, Neurotransmitters called endorphins are triggered by the movements of the muscles in our face. Our brain responds to these movements by releasing the chemicals, endorphins, which are responsible for making us feel happy, and content.
3.) Grab a notepad by your bed
Each night, before going to sleep, jot down these observations from the day:
4.) Look up and out
5.) Keep it goin'
Upon completion of your month long journey, you may want to continue honing your abilities. Here's just a few ideas for you.
6.) For the brave and daring
Avoid negative media and movies with destructive content.
Yeah, I know, #6 is a real doozy, right?!! Well, that's the one I'm working on now. Do I have any takers? I'd love to have some company!
Red and Pink Candies and Knick-Knacks
February is characterized by red and pink hearts - candies and knick-knacks galore. Store displays remind us that it’s this little month is all about “the love”. Around Valentine’s Day each year, that classic old song, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” by Andy Williams, drifts through my head - probably because my parents made good use of Andy's album. Ahh, yes... love is splendid!
Love is a Splendid Thing
But what keeps “love” being so splendid? It’s those simple things like kind gestures, courteous considerations …and gratitude. Did you know studies actually show a direct link between gratitude and love?
How to Grow More "Love"
We can actually cultivate and expand our love by actively looking for, making note of and giving verbal appreciation. And I can personally vouch for this. In our marriage, this has been one of our most sustaining energizers. We’ve been known to make a game of it, taking turns to name 10 things - or more - that we admire about the other. With nearly four decades of a shared life together, it has served us well.
This guy has been helping me understand the power of gratitude since 1981!
Kindness is a ‘superpower.” It can make others glow with good will. And the absence of it has the power to create distance. To grow in kindness, it’s a great idea to reflect at the end of the day, and jot down any kindnesses you may have shared or those received. You might be surprised the effect this practice could have. Then as an additional exercise, you might also write down the missed opportunities where you could have been kind—or kinder.
To hit any target, we focus our aim. I wonder what amazing things could happen if we decide to practice aiming toward kindness. What magical, transformative things might ensue if we set a goal to explore the possibilities of kindness?
The most exciting thing is that kindness is contagious. Even a small act of graciousness is likely spread to others in a “pay it forward” way. Here’s list of ideas we might consider growing our kindness capacity.
1.) Decide to purposefully increase your awareness of kindness. Be on the look-out for acts of kindness around you. Take notice. You might make a sort of game of it.
2.) Be intentional about showing yourself kindness. It actually becomes easier to offer kindness to others when we first extend it to yourself. When we’re hard on ourselves, it make it more challenging to show mercy to others.
3.) Be kinder to yourself. (Yep! I’m repeating the “be kind to yourself” point. Because it really bears repeating!) Embark on a self-care crusade. This can mean anything from getting more sleep to avoiding negative self-talk. Showing yourself kindness has endless ripple effects.
4.) Practice being appreciative. If someone shows you a kindness, instead of brushing it off or saying “you didn’t need to do that,” just say “thank you.” In doing this, you’ll not only tenderize your own heart but you’ll also maximize the other person's enjoyment - which is another form of kindness.
5.) Look for opportunities to practice being kind. It may be something as simple as giving a genuine compliment or giving your full attention in a conversation. Both are simple gestures of kindness.
6.) Aspire to smile more. Smiling increases positivity within yourself while also cheering others. A genuine smile is one of the best ways to we can show cordiality. And we may never know the ripple effects this tiny act can set in motion.
7.) Consider ways you might show courtesy and goodness to the people closest to you. We often take them for granted - snapping at them, or not fully listening. Whenever you lose your temper, apologize immediately. When someone forgets a task, practice saying, “It’s OK. sometimes I forget stuff too.” You will feel lighter knowing you gave a kindness.
8.) Verbally commend someone for a job well done when the occasion arises. It’s even better to do this in front of those who are most appropriately significant, such as co-workers in an office situation, or family members in the home.
9.) Send a card, flowers, cookies or some thoughtful expression to someone you know who is going through a difficult time that lets them know that you care and are thinking of him or her.
10.) Take a deep breath the next time someone is rude or inconsiderate, Instead of getting defensive, consider what trying situation they might be in. Of course this doesn’t mean being a doormat, but just taking a pause and giving them a pass. We all need passes at one time or another.
11.) Express your gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life. With a letter or in person, share with them how their kindness, support or a particular gesture affected you and how grateful you are to know or have known them. You can be sure that you will make their day and move them deeply with your act of kindness.
12.) Hide notes of encouragement in your spouse’s or child’s lunch box or in a coat pocket, shoes or other place where he or she will receive this nice little surprise. Try to be specific about something they’ve done.
13.) Declare a moratorium on complaining. You can try it just for one day or set a goal of a week. Perhaps even two or three weeks. You might consider tracking how you become more positive, hopeful and optimistic. Not complaining is a kindness because your positivity will help others to do the same.
14.) Listen to people with interest, concern and compassion, giving them your full attention. It is a truth that all people really want is to be seen and heard.
15.) Bring someone a special treat such as donuts, homemade brownies or cookies. This will brighten their day - and yours!
16.) When at a gathering, try looking for that person struggling with socializing. You’ll feel more fulfilled showing this simple kindness. And you may be surprised what incredible, life-changing conversation you may have with them.
These "kindness" prompts are only the beginning of endless possibilities. Have fun with them! Let's all work toward being a kinder, gentler people, shall we?
“Unfortunately, most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you CAN change. And what empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love.” Richard Rohr captures our conflict perfectly.
Ok, friends, It’s Monday. You know what’s coming... stuff of every sort will challenge us. Our peace will be bombarded and accosted. But let’s cling all the more tightly to our peace and not allow it to flutter away.... “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” —Saint Francis de Sales
Shop this image here:
For those of us who are facing hard things, I offer the sweet words of C.S. Lewis when he penned Prince Caspian’s sentiment, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different ...” Let’s take courage, today, my friends.
"Spreading Love" by Eleatta
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." -Mother Teresa
Did you know January 24 is National Compliment Day? Yep. It's a real thing! The power of a compliment is sadly underestimated. At a time in our culture with so many people feeling disconnected and alone, a simple compliment has amazing potential. We're all longing to be seen and heard. It's the basic yearning of the human heart.
The simple fact is this. When we receive kind words we're more likely to give them. Then, in giving them, we create possibilities for continued ripples.
When I heard about National Compliment Day, I thought, "Wow! That's an occasion more folks should know about!" So do you want to join me? Let's think of someone we could offer some heartfelt words to bolster them. Who knows what sparks of hope might be kindled from an encouraging text, appreciative email, warm voice message, or note of gratitude?
I remember a compliment I was given a while ago. It came at a time I felt particularly weak and alone because I'd been listening to little "gremlin voices." You know, they're those pesky whispers that try to convince us that we're not enough. They suggest thoughts like, "Who do you think you are, anyway?" or "You don't have what it takes." Someone sent a simple two-sentence email to me,
"I just want to thank you for the art you make - for your heart that you put into it. The small painting I purchased from you a few months ago has been helping me as I recover from some deep sadness after the loss of my Mom."
Needless to say, that short message silenced those gremlins. When they reappear, as they tend to do, I still pull up that email and let my heart feel it's words.
Have you noticed how our little “gremlin” voices continually try to shift and move their hindering mental hurdles? ⠀
When we’re young, they whisper, “You’re way too young! Nobody’s going to respect what you have to say!” Or ,”You don’t know what you’re doing!”⠀
Then, later, they try reminding you of all the stupid mistakes you’ve made.⠀
As years accumulate, they threaten us with, “Who do you think you are?! You’re way too old to try that!...”⠀
At some point, we’ve just gotta’ call their bluff- and tell THEM, “ Enough is enough, already! I am smart - enough, I am strong- enough... and I am still able - at least able enough to give it my best.” And THAT, my friends, is all we can ask of anyone. That’s all we can ask of ourselves- that we show up and do our best.
Today, in my journal, I was thinking about that over-used and under-employed word, L-O-V-E. It's so often rinsed out and used-up of its real potency. Nevertheless, in its truest description, its potency is undeniable. When we remember to harness its energy, our impatience melts. Our fears subside. Our angst dissipates.
Love is really not something we give or get. But rather, it's something we nurture and grow. It's a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Posters and Products is a new collection I've begun which offers wall posters paired with inspirational text. There's also tote bags, pillows and t-shirts available in many of the designs.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! It's a day that conjures up images of pink and red hearts, chocolate decadence and romanticized perfection. We have lots of happy associations with it, such as the construction paper hearts that were tucked in our school desks or the packets of miniature confections stamped with messages such as “Be Mine”. But Valentine’s Day also elicits unpleasant associations.
The day can be met with some unpleasant associations - both in men and women. Guys usually dread it. It makes them feel awkwardly obliged to fulfill Hallmark’s fantastical imagery. For women, it evokes expectations that, if looked at objectively, are unfair and unrealistic. Truthfully told, Valentine’s Day invites feelings of dissatisfaction, resentment, and isolation.
But the holiday holds so much potential if we strip away the commercialized hype and look at what l-o-v-e really spells out for us. It could offer a lot more positive possibilities - for everyone.
When we examine the fullness of the word “love”, we see that it stretches far beyond the limitations of Rom-Com movies and Hallmark greeting cards. It implies weightier ingredients that encompass every human relationship - regardless of their “relationship status”.
One ancient Biblical text helps magnify its broader application:
"Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up..."
( Excerpt from I Corinthians 13 TPT)
I wish we could reinvent Valentine’s Day! Can’t you just imagine how much better it could be if we took a day to celebrate a fuller definition of what love is? Because, in the words of the poet, Rumi,
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.”
How different would your Valentine's Day look if we magnified the meaning of "love"?