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On Building a Simple and Thoughtful Lifestyle, Beginning with Gratitude and Mindfulness

My mother and I had a telephone conversation this morning that I can only describe as warm.  It left me feeling good.  It made me miss home and her advice and the ability to meet for lunch in town during a busy workday or stop by after dinner for a movie.  My relationship with my mother is not perfect – it never has been or will be – but it is one of love and respect for one another.  After I hung up with her, the warmth I felt was wonderful, and I wouldn’t be doing her justice if I didn’t mention my gratitude for her presence in my life.

I’m not too proud to admit that being grateful for the special things in my life – be it little or big – is difficult to do every day.  However, with the holidays coming up I’m trying to be extra mindful of all the wonderful gifts in my life.  Despite the everyday stresses, I am working toward a better awareness of the gifts I’m given every single day.  Enjoying the now, the present moment, is so much easier when you aren’t focused on hindsight or foresight.

The topic of gratitude and mindfulness is near-and-dear to my heart.  I truly believe that if we choose to live in a more mindful atmosphere and allow ourselves the reflection on our gifts, a simple and more thoughtful lifestyle can be borne from that choice.  It is something that must be worked at – I am always working toward that lifestyle – but the rewards reaped from that effort far outweigh that which might be forfeit.

I’ve gathered together some simple tips and tidbits that have helped me focus on the here-and-now rather than the could’ve-been’s and can-be’s.

  1. Unplug it.  Feeling inundated with too much noise?  Whether it be real noise such as the television or radio in the car or digital noise on social media and the Internet, we are always actively searching for that next bit of entertainment.  With so many options of things to fill your mind up, there is hardly any room for peace.  I like to practice at least 30 minutes of quiet in the morning and at night to focus on the positive aspects of the day and remind myself of all that there is to be grateful for.
  2. Slow down.  Similar to unplugging ourselves from all the constant dings, pangs, and beeps of the world around us, slowing yourself down leads to gratitude and higher productivity levels.  When we’re no longer multitasking during every item on our busy daily agendas, we are given a chance to notice what may have been lost in the more active moments of the day.   Taking a few moments to focus on breathing or one thought you had that you promised yourself you’d come back to allows us to focus our energy into the special things, both big and small, that we might overlook each day when rushing from one thing to the next.
  3. Let go.  Life is hectic, especially during the holiday season.  Instead of asking yourself one hundred questions about the presentation you gave at work or the list of groceries you gave your significant other that might be missing one or two items, allow yourself to stop.  When the action is over, let it be over.  Fretting over what cannot be changed only creates unneeded stress and shortens the mental view of the “big picture”.
  4. Enjoy life.  Hand-in-hand with letting it go, a lot of us – myself included – allow our fretting to get in the way of our enjoyment of activities and things that usually bring us happiness.  Instead of enjoying a movie with your significant other, you’re anxiously going over the notes on your company’s latest acquisition that may have had an error in them.  Instead of going out to dinner, you stay home because you don’t want to see the dip in your finances.  This one is difficult, folks, and I am still struggling with it, but it allows for so much clarity once it’s achieved even just once that you’ll want to continue achieving it over and over.

These four guidelines have allowed me to feel more gratitude and enable more mindfulness throughout my day than I had before.  They enable me to focus on the already-great aspects of my life rather than the could-be-better’s.

The holidays are a time to reflect on the gifts you have been given as well as the gifts you continue to receive.  Permitting yourself to see how fortunate you are enables you not only to decompress before, during, and after your day but also reveals those things that should be celebrated.  For me, I feel the most gratitude for my parents at home in Vermont, my sister away at school in New York, my little family here in Philadelphia, my brilliant friends both near and far, the roof above my head and the space beneath.

During the season of giving, I’d love to hear some of what you are most thankful for receiving.  Large or small, no story is insignificant, and I can’t wait to hear them!

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