Take a moment today to express your gratitude

World Gratitude Day

If you were going to declare an international day of observance, what would it be? What’s something so important to you that you’d want the world to pay attention and join you?

There are myriad such days held around the world, from the light to the more serious. Who knew there were special days such as National Hot Tea Day and National Kazoo Day in January? I certainly did not.

National Poutine Day is in March, World Laughter Day and World Coconut Days are in May. Along with these more unusual days of observation are meaningful ones, offering us an opportunity for awareness and engagement.

Today, Sept. 21, is one such day, acknowledging two very important days—World Gratitude Day and The International Day of Peace.

It’s perfect that these two days coincide, as the state of peace arises easily as we practice gratitude. Gratitude is acknowledging the good in our lives and a little bit of gratitude can go a long way.

I was struck by the words of Dan Rockwell in his Leadership blog some years ago.

“Ungratefulness spoils everything it touches. Ungratefulness slithers out of a black muck that’s called, ‘don’t like,’ ‘don’t want,’ don’t have’ and ‘not enough’. There is no positive side to the slimy beast of ungratefulness,” he said.

I think he’s right, and a sense of ingratitude and entitlement may be costing us more than we know.

According to Gallup Organization’s Julie Ray in 2019, the world took a negative turn in 2017, with global levels of stress, worry, sadness and pain hitting new highs. Over the past couple of years, that trend increased even more. Gratitude is one way we can change the trend for the better.

If we can do one little thing to increase our own health and happiness, practicing gratitude might be that one little thing, not only for ourselves but for others when we express it.

Consider how gratitude feels for you when you express or receive it. It feels good.

It’s sure easy to see what’s missing or challenging and get stuck focussing on the negative. This very human tendency costs us our health and happiness. It’s also easy to take things for granted and overlook the many good people and things in our world.

The benefits of living a grateful life have been revealed by research:

• Improved physical health

• Reduced cellular inflammation

• Reduced negative rumination and fewer toxic, negative emotions

• Greater life satisfaction, happiness and positive mood

• Less materialistic

• Prevents burnout

• Improved sleep, less fatigue

• Improved patience, humility and wisdom

• Greater resiliency

Group gratitude encourages:

• Stronger relationships and prosocial behaviours

• Increased job satisfaction

• Facilitates helping behaviour

While expressing gratitude directly to people is wonderful, the benefits of gratitude are experienced though simply thinking or writing about what we’re grateful for. Even on our most challenging days, there’s always something to be grateful for.

As I practice gratitude by acknowledging the good in my life, I experience a sense of “enoughness” as I recognize how much good exists—from the simple to the amazing—and I am filled with a sense of peace. For this reason, I see the coinciding of the World Day of Gratitude and the International Day of Peace as perfect partners.

World Gratitude Day was born in 1965 at an international meeting in Hawaii and has grown into a global movement in subsequent years. It is a time for individuals and organizations to acknowledge the good in their lives and extend the benefits of appreciation and an attitude of gratefulness.

The International Day of Peace, or “Peace Day” has been observed globally since its inception in 1981. In a world where so much can divide us, I think we can all agree with the United Nations resolution “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and people,” is of vital importance to us all.

At noon today, we have the opportunity to marry the two and participate in a “PeaceWave”, when people around the globe will pause at 12 p.m. in their time zone to hold a consciousness or prayer for peace.

The PeaceWave began on Sept. 21, 1982 and has continued to spread globally in multiple ways. You can check out the United Nations website for more information (https://www.un.org/en/observances/international-day-peace).

If you miss out on the opportunity at noon, don’t worry. Just stop where you are and add your little bit to the ideal of peace and gratitude. Notice how you feel when you do this, you might be surprised.

I’m inspired by the words of Desmond Tutu who reminds each of us to: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

So take a moment today, and hopefully every day, to add to your personal good and the good of the collective. Add your little bit of good to the world. It matters.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The positive power of self-affirmation

Telling yourself you can

Our internal narratives aren’t innocent and without effect in our lives.

Our tendencies of thought either help or hinder our health and happiness. If we’re caught in a negative loop, we suffer. Knowing how to help ourselves is important.

“Change your thinking and change your life” seems such a simplistic statement, yet within this quote from Ernest Holmes is a powerful truth I’ve learned to pay attention to.

Our bodies don’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. Every minute of the day, our bodies are responding to the thoughts that run through our heads. We all know how one negative or alarming thought can cause our heart to race, our muscles to tense and our mood to shift.

We have an internal pharmacy and we choose which bio-chemicals we are dispensing for ourselves depending on the nature of our thoughts. It’s vital we’re aware that we are the ones choosing which bio-chemicals our bodies are receiving.

A thought repeated over time becomes a hard-wired tendency due to the neuroplastic nature of the brain. Neurons that fire together, wire together, according to Hebb’s rule of brain plasticity. What we practice grows stronger and it changes our brains.

Many of us have over-used negative, self-defeating affirmations for years. Learning to flip this practice on its head is powerful. For me, it was helpful knowing there’s genuine science and theory supporting this practice.

To be honest, when it was first suggested I use affirmations to pull myself out of a funk, I had a hard time believing they could make a difference. I’d yet to learn the power of my thinking-feeling nature; the formula of thought plus feeling equals my experience. That was new at the time. Yet, understanding this has transformed my life.

Positive affirmations are simply phrases or statements used to support ourselves and challenge negative or self-destructive mental tendencies. They support, encourage and calm the body and brain, reducing the stress response and elicit a cascade of helpful biochemicals. This changes our experience of life.

I had nothing to lose by trying this simple practice, and I was surprised by the positive effect using positive affirmations held when I gave them a try.

Like the story of the Little Engine That Could, using them has become a main-stay in my life as they’ve served to powerfully re-set my mind and experience of life.

Positive self-affirmations are found to:

• Reduce stress, anxiety and depression

• Increase feelings of hopefulness, soothing, and relaxation

• Improve confidence

• Support positive outcomes

• Improve work performance and productivity

• Increase resilience

• Increase motivation

• Helpful in formation of new habits

• May be helpful in promoting sleep

Positive affirmations don’t have to be complex, and are best if they align with your own values and are believable to us. They are short statements repeated several times a day and can be additionally used to support ourselves when facing challenging or stressful situations.

Writing them down or repeating them out-loud to ourselves in the mirror is very helpful. I’ve written them in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and on my kitchen window to help me remember. This way, I share them with my family.

As I’ve come to understand the very real mental, emotional, and physical benefits we experience when we engage in some of these simple practices, it’s certainly caused me to make them more of a priority in my life; understanding the ‘why’ or the science has changed my life.

What you tell yourself about you is important. You can change the narrative of your life and bolster your own self-esteem by acknowledging your positive aspects; only you can do this because it’s an inside job.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right,” according to Henry Ford.

I believe you can.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Striving to be perfect is not always the best route to happiness

Paralyzed by perfection

For many years, I admired others I viewed as perfectionists. They seemed to do everything so well.

While having high-standards is a good thing, it isn’t the same as being a perfectionist. There’s a difference between excellence and perfectionism.

I wore perfectionism like a suit of armour. If everything looked perfect, and I paid great attention to detail and worked harder, I felt safe. If I did things perfectly, there was nothing for anyone to criticize and I felt I had value.

It worked for quite a long time, until it didn’t. It led me to an epic burnout, when my mind and body said, “Stop!” I didn’t recognize my own tendency towards striving for perfection or understand it for many years.

I thought my new co-worker was crazy when she handed me a paper listing the qualities of a perfectionist during my first week of orientation at the university. I didn’t get it, I surely didn’t feel like I had a right to claim the moniker, until I read it.

Others saw it, and it was encouraged and rewarded by many. Who doesn’t want a perfectionist on their team? My work was always done, with painstaking attention to detail. My family was proud of my fabulous GPA, my house was perfectly clean and in order, and every task was done with great attention to detail. It all looked good on the outside, but inside it felt crappy, and it felt like anything but perfect.

I work with many people who are suffering because of their drive for perfection. Researchers report the tendency of perfectionism is rising in society today, especially among young people.

Perfectionism doesn’t always look or feel like perfection. It has some surprising faces:

• Procrastination

• Feeling paralyzed to take action

• Avoiding new things or things that can’t be done perfectly

• Fear of making decisions

• Getting caught up in small details

• Being hyper-critical; more focussed on what’s wrong instead of what’s going well

• Feeling anxious and/or depressed

• Never feeling enough are hallmarks of the perfectionist

Perfection prevents us from expanding our horizons as we endeavour to stay safe within what we’re good at. It limits self-growth when restricts us from exploring new possibilities.

For me, I avoided things I couldn’t do perfectly. Important things got put on the back-burner, which was a cause for inner shame. I had analysis-paralysis when faced with big decisions, and got so caught up with insignificant details that other, more important things, got missed.

I held challenging emotions close to my chest, not wanting others to see my vulnerability.

Perfectionism isn’t one-size-fits-all, as there are different types of perfectionism. You can take an online test to determine the source of your perfectionism, but receiving the help of a wise professional is invaluable.

For me, perfectionist traits were a buffer for feelings of vulnerability, and made it hard to bounce back from challenge. Mindfulness and gaining awareness into my own tendencies was, and continues to be, essential.

Becoming aware of my negative self-talk was shocking. I’d never speak to another person the way I did to myself. Learning to challenge my all-or-nothing mentality was powerful, as was finding out the world wouldn’t end if everything wasn’t perfect.

Learning to drop the very critical lens I had of myself, and hold my quirks and foibles with self-compassion and a good amount of humor, has allowed me to relax and chill. Vulnerability has now become one of my greatest strengths. Brene Brown was right about The Gifts of Imperfection.

While I still have to remain aware and alert to my tendency toward perfectionism, it doesn’t limit and destroy my happiness like it once did. Sometimes good enough is enough.

Understanding perfectionism, gaining insight into myself, and learning a new way of being was instrumental in recovering from burnout and a life of striving for what was unattainable. The tendency still remains, but I’ve learned to address it when it appears.

I still like to do things well, but giving up striving for what’s not real has allowed me to relax, enjoy life more, and feel happier and more resilient.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Are you living the life you want to live?

Living life to the fullest

Are the living dead among us?

Reportedly, their epitaph reads, “Here lies J. Doe: Dead at 30, buried at 79.” Far too many people report their lives as “SSDD” (Same Stuff, Different Day) kind of living.

I was reminded of this in a talk by Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon. I resonated deeply with his words as they reminded of my earlier years. In living the life I thought was expected of me, I failed to create the life I wanted to live. I felt like a mere spectator in my own life instead of a conscious creator.

It was a good enough life—routine but wholly uninspiring.

As Gordon shared, it’s so easy to put your life aside and continue to trudge, work and not realize there’s another way. I was so busy making a living I neglected to make a life filled with meaning, purpose and happiness. Even things meant to be joyful quickly turned into sacrifice as I lived this way.

My precious father’s words haunted me as he reflected on his own life in his later years. He’d worked hard during his life, dedicated to his work and providing for his family. We had a good life and he was a good father, yet he’d let go of his own hopes and aspirations.

In his final years, he regretted not spending his energy on what mattered most and lamented, “if only I’d known how little it all mattered, I’d never have lived my life the way I did.”

That broke my heart.

His words were a rich gift, waking me up and causing me to question the way I was living. I’m deeply grateful for waking up to the possibility and importance of actually living my life rather than letting life live me. I alone get to choose the way I live my life. It’s up to me.

Life’s demands have a way of pulling us off balance and out of alignment with our own values and intentions for living if we’re not awake.

Haunted by my father’s words, I began to ask myself if I was spending time and energy on those things I valued most. I was not and it was time for change. Waking up to new possibility and learning to question the status quo changed everything for me. Taking time to reflect on my own values and intentions for living was key. Having my life reflect my values is important to me and has helped me live life on purpose.

Establishing a personal vision for our lives reminds us of the reason, or the “why” behind everything we do. What do I want my life to stand for? In taking responsibility for the choices I’d made, I recognized I’m always at a point of making a new choice. Realigning my life with my deepest values and intentions caused many things to fall away and brought new life to those things that remained.

Creating a life vision and living an intention-filled life isn’t a once-and-done event. As our lives change and we evolve, it’s a wonderful idea to revisit and re-set our life vision periodically. As we cast a new vision; this brings deeper meaning and purpose to our lives. I’ve just recently set a new vision for my life, and it’s been invigorating and enlivening.

For many years now I’ve lived an uncommon life. I could not have imagined 25 years ago the rich life I’m living today and the opportunities I’m afforded. I’ve discovered aspects of myself I never knew were there.

What’s your vision for your life? What’s waiting to be born through your living? What will your epitaph say?

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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