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2020 Gratitude & Reflections

Goodbye 2020!

Around this time last year I was enjoying Summer in beautiful, sunny & wild South Africa with my family sat on a terrace in Camps Bay with a gorgeous view on the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a sun about to set… as good as it gets!

Now, after having enjoyed a family walk in my nearby Vondelpark on this clear, sunny and mild Winter day, I am taking a moment to reflect on this challenging year in the comfort of my cozy home and feeling grateful.

2020 has certainly brought many mindful life lessons with it including appreciating more the everyday blessings: family, home, health, warmth, comfort, privilege, togetherness, savouring nature, being in the moment, going within, embracing not knowing, slowing down, letting go of planning and control, surrendering, being grounded and growing my resilience, and the importance of self-care, physical touch, community & connection.

What are you grateful for? What are your 2020 highlights?

Looking back at some of my highlights of 2020…

This year started for our family in Cape Town, South Africa on the top of Table Mountain!

We went skiing as a family in lovely Val Frejus.

We experienced home schooling our children and felt more grateful than ever to the amazing work teachers do.

I gave my first mindfulness and mindful birthing courses online which turned out much better than I could have imagined

I qualified as a Yin Yoga teacher and gave sessions in the Vondelpark

I supported 5 families as a birth doula

I became a Somatics Coach and took on my first coaching clients

I contracted Covid-19 and self-isolated for over a week in my own home, weird!

I didn’t travel to France and see my family ☹

We spent our summer holiday hiking in the beautiful Swiss mountains

We had some lovely overnights stays in the Netherlands and discovered new places including gorgeous Bergen aan Zee and surrounding dunes

I co-hosted my first city mindfulness & coaching retreat including an amazing ecstatic dancing session

Our family spent the first Christmas ever in the Netherlands

#goodbye2020 #gratitude #reflection #mindfulness

MOOD BOOSTING CHALLENGE WEEK 4: POSITIVE THINKING

THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING – MINDFULNESS OF THOUGHTS & POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS  

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this question reflects your outlook on life and ultimately how happy and healthy you are. Our thought patterns dictate the way we perceive and explain reality, including our relationship to ourselves and to the world. Yet when we look at these thoughts more closely, they are often inaccurate or only partially true.

The good news is there is nothing fixed about our brain and the way we look at things. We always choose our attitude to whatever life throws our way, the more awareness we have, the more this ability for conscious choice is activated. We really can reprogram our brains to an extent. Through mindfulness, cultivating non-judging and non-reactive awareness of thoughts, as well as working with affirmations we can significantly shift our mindset in a matter of weeks. Cultivating gratitude is itself a powerful way to see the glass half full so if you don’t have a gratitude practice check out last week’s post on gratitude.

Challenge of the week : Work with positive affirmations either by tuning in to my affirmation practice daily and/or creating your own affirmations. Write down 1 to 3 affirmations that really resonate for you and repeat them daily as often as you like and try to remember to use these also in stressful moments after some practice. And of course share your favourite affirmation or words that empower you mentioning @experiencemindfulness and #moodboostingchallenge. Chances are someone else in your network really needs to hear them too and sharing them reaffirms them for you causing a ripple effect. Last but not least I may surprise you with a freebie 😊

More food for positive thoughts :

  • Working with Difficulties : Our mind doesn’t really make the difference between reality and imagination that is why our stress response gets activated not only by real physical threats but also by the imaginary tigers of our mind. The beauty is we can flip this around by imagining the best possible outcome and using positive affirmations as a counterbalance to our inner critic. Have a challenge coming your way? visualise the most positive outcome you can imagine, play it in your mind, connect with your senses – how does it feel? What do you see, hear, smell, notice? You can even play some music and dance to your success if that doesn’t feel too “up there” for you.
  • Negative thinking is toxic literally. Your every thought produces a biochemical reaction in the brain. The brain then releases chemical signals that are transmitted to the body, where they act as the messengers of the thought. The thoughts that produce the chemicals in the brain allow your body to feel exactly the way you were just thinking. So every thought produces a chemical that is matched by a feeling in your body.
  • Practice mindfulness of thoughts : We cannot control what arises to mind but by watching our thoughts we gradually become freed from their tyranny, gain perspective, space and have access to other ways of thinking about situations. Each time we recognize a thought as a thought when it arises and register its content, then let go of it and come back to our breathing and a sense of our body, we are strengthening mindfulness. We do not need to fight with thoughts, struggle against them or judge them. Rather, we can simply choose not to follow the thoughts when we are aware that they have arisen. “From thoughts come actions. From actions come all sorts of consequences. In which thoughts will we invest? Our great task it to see them clearly, so that we can choose which ones to act on and which ones simply to let be.” – Joseph Goldstein
  • Reframing negative thoughts : If you have a persistent, repetitive negative though you can write it down and rephrase it into a positive affirmation. And use that affirmation every time the negative though pops up again. Over time, we can begin cultivating new, more constructive thought patterns, new ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us.
  • Book Recommendation : The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

“Start listening to the voice in your head. The voice comments, complains, likes, dislikes and so in. It isn’t necessarily relevant to the situation you find yourself in at the time; it may be reviving the recent or distant past or rehearsing or imagining possible future situations. Here it often imagines things going wrong and negative outcomes, this is called worry. Sometimes the soundtrack is accompanied by visual images or “mental movies”. Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past. This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited. So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy. Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness as well as disease. The good news is that you can ‘free’ yourself from your mind by listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive though patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years… watch the thinker, be there as the impartial witnessing presence. You will soon realise: there is the voice and here I am listening to it, watching it. This ‘I am’ realization, this sense of your own presence is not a thought. It arises beyond the mind. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. The thought then loses its power over you and eventually subsides because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking. When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream – a gap of “no-mind”. At first the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. There is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising deep from within: the joy of Being.” – Eckhart Tolle

How will this boost my mood?

Positive thinking is an ultimate mood booster. Essentially, when you think happy, inspiring, or positive thoughts, your brain manufactures chemicals that make you feel joyful, inspired, or uplifted. Positive affirmations can be used to boost self-esteem, encourage positive transformation or motivation. To be effective affirmations require regular practice for lasting long-term changes.  Research has linked affirmations to lower stress and rumination as well as to academic achievement. Positive thinking helps make us more resilient to difficulties when they arise.

MOOD BOOSTING CHALLENGE WEEK 3 : GRATITUDE

Challenge of the week : start a daily gratitude practice if you don’t have one already!  Share your gratitude journey, something your grateful for, to lift yourself & others up. Every time you share tagging me & mentioning hashtag #moodboostingchallenge you become eligible for a free ticket to the Mindful Circle, a self-compassion workshop or a private coaching session.

Gratitude is a simple yet powerful mood booster and the beauty is the more you are grateful, the more what you attract what you are grateful for. Really, don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.

How to practice gratitude? For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving you may have had a wonderful opportunity recently  to reflect on and share what you are thankful for. You can continue experiencing lasting benefits by taking this on as a regular practice. Take a few moments daily to reflect or preferably write down 3 to 5 things you feel grateful for. Research shows that the simple act of journaling 3 times a week about things you are grateful has amazing benefits on our well-being.

 

Extra Tips : And you can get more creative with your gratitude practice. Fill a gratitude jar with 1 thing you are grateful for a day. For families you can have a gratitude circle at the dinner table where everyone shares one thing they are grateful for on that day.

If you are practicing already, that’s amazing, please inspire us by sharing your gratitude practice or its benefits for you on social media using #moodboostingchallenge

If you are starting on your gratitude journey, it is not unusual that the practice can feel forced and unnatural. There’s nothing wrong with that, just carry on a few weeks with an open, non-judgmental mind and you will likely actually start feeling grateful.

When gratitude arises in a daily moment bring your full presence into this moment. Notice how it feels, how the mind is at ease, the body relaxed and warm. Chances are the experience will become even more enjoyable through your presence. The more mindfulness we cultivate, open and full presence, the more gratitude arises.

Book recommendation : The Gratitude Project : How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good

Articles for further motivation on the benefits and science of gratitude 

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain (berkeley.edu)

Is gratitude the secret of happiness? I spent a month finding out | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

How will this boost my mood?

Gratitude is really offering a perspective shift focusing on all that is right with us instead of what is wrong. Our minds have a tendency to focus and ruminate on things that are not as we want them to be.  We can tend to magnify our problems, blow them out of proportion. Gratitude helps restore balance and change our outlook on life.

Need more inspiration? Gratitude has tremendous benefits on health & happiness. A gratitude practice is associated with increased wellbeing, protects people form stress and depression, allows for more fulfilling relationships, better sleep and greater resilience. This is a powerful practice to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image with long-lasting benefits.