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Balance your mind (DW#685)

Have you ever heard of, or tried, alternate nostril breathing?It’s an ancient yogic technique that’s been shown to effect brain waves and reduce anxiety and stress while inducing a calm, balanced mind.

Research from UCSD indicates that the nasal breathing cycle corresponds to the dominance of the left or the right hemisphere of the brain. The study suggested that the "cycle of hemispheric dominance" could be manipulated by using breathing techniques: "Closing the right nostril and forcibly breathing through the left nostril produces greater EEG activity in the right brain and vice versa. These changes in the pattern of EEG dominance occur almost instantaneously; at most, they require periods of about five minutes."

Here’s how alternate nostril breathing works. Please note that it sounds much more complicated than it is in practice.

Place your right thumb over your right nostril and rest your pointer finger on your forehead. Inhale through your left nostril. I like...

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Self-care and resilience (DW#673)

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of stress or disaster while others appear to come undone? People that can keep their cool and maintain their balance have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks.

Resilience has been defined by the American Psychological Association as "the human ability to adapt in the face of tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors." To put it very simply, resilience is the ability to "bounce back" from challenges.

Resilience does not mean that you experience less distress, grief, anxiety or external life challenges than other people. It does mean that you can handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth. That you are able to bounce back when you are knocked down and you may even emerge stronger than you were before you encountered the challenge.

The good news about resilience? It is like a muscle that can be developed through...

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Why is it so easy to let go of self-care? (DW#672)

Over the last few days we have been discussing the importance of self-care. From the feedback I am getting from you, it seems that most people agree (at least theoretically) that self-care is vital to thrive at work, at home and in life.

So why is so easy to let go of self-care? When we are stressed or busy, why is taking care of the fundamentals of self-care the first thing we drop from our to-do list? Why is it that we ignore it when we need it the most?

Here are 3 reasons:

1) Because we think about self-care from a distance, as something we are supposed to do and you know it’s important, but we haven’t really thought about it or made an intention to implement this in a regular or structured way.
2) When we are stressed, our perspective narrows and we focus only on the problems at hand. This is not the time that we can think about refueling. We are too busy "doing" to pause or reflect on what we need.
3) We do not have a plan for self-care so there is no context,...

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Using the gratitude jar for good causes (DW#658)

Yesterday we discussed the gratitude jar activity for families. Today let us explore another way to use a gratitude jar which involves sharing our blessings with others.
Here is the practice:

Next to the gratitude jar in which you are depositing your daily gratitudes, also place another jar to be used as a sort of a piggy bank.

Develop a habit of depositing small amounts of money in this jar whenever you are writing out your daily gratitudes and feel called to share your good fortune with others.
Once the jar is filled up you can decide as a family where to donate the contents.

Using our gratitude to show kindness to a charity we are passionate about encourages us to show gratitude in action. It can be a very important learning for children as they begin to recognize that the blessings and gifts that we have been given also create a responsibility to pay these blessings forward and to use them to promote good in the world.

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The gratitude jar (DW#657)

Today’s practice can become a meaningful family ritual and has the potential of transforming the home environment from one of complaining to one of gratitude.

1. Find a glass jar or a box.

2. You can decorate it with your family as you wish.

3. Keep the jar in a prominent place in a busy zone of your house such as the kitchen or front hall way. Keep a stack of notes and pens next to the jar.

4. Make it a ritual for each family member to write three notes of gratitude a day and put it in the jar.

The notes can be about mundane things (a hot cup of coffee, spare toilet paper) or important things (doing well on a test, hearing from an old friend)

5. At the end of the week, you may take out the contents of the jar and have people read out the slips of paper and share what family members were grateful for during the past week.

Over time, you may find that the atmosphere of the family subtly shifts and that an attitude of gratitude becomes the norm, especially as family members are...

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A teacup full of gratitude (DW#656)

This week we are continuing exploring various gratitude practices.

Today, I am sharing one of my favourite and simplest practices.

For many of us, the morning cup of tea or coffee is quite precious. It is a ritual we engage in every single day, perhaps with not much thought to what is involved in getting that cup of caffeine to us.

Today’s practice involves becoming mindful of this blessing and feeling gratitude for it.

While you are having your first cup in the morning, pause for a moment and become mindful of cup you are holding:
Notice …
The comforting warmth that fills your hands
The aroma that gently drifts up towards your nose
The quiet time before the hustle of the day begins
How many people and resources it has taken to get this cup to you .

. . . people who planted the tea or coffee,
. . . those who harvested it, processed it and brought it to market
. . . those who took care of the cow that gave the mil
. . . those who worked in the factory that made the tea cup,...

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Clear the backlog even if you cannot get in touch with the person (DW#655)

The practices that we have been discussing have two aspects:

1) the feeling of gratitude(which is an internal process for ourselves) and
2) the expressing of gratitudewhich is external and involves other people.

While it is extremely powerful to both feel and express gratitude, some of the people who show up in our list of people to thank may not be accessible to us at the present time. They may be out of touch, have passed on from this world or be entire groups of people such as teachers, speakers, coaches or volunteers at our places of worship.

In such situations, it is still worthwhile to engage in the first aspect of gratitude by recalling the kindnesses of such people, or groups of people, in detail. And then to write them out or to offer thanks to them in your imagination for the specific things that you are grateful for and appreciate about them.

One practice that I engage in regularly at the end of a busy season at our community centre is to recall the many many small things...

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Clear the backlog (DW#654)

Once you get going with writing the first gratitude letter, consider where you might have a backlog of thanks, for big things and little things. Kindnesses that you have received but which you never thanked the person properly.

"When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life," Martin Seligman writes in Flourish. "But," he continues, "sometimes our thank-you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless."

A wonderful and powerful practice is to make a list of people you want to thank and then gradually move through the list. In his book 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life, John Kralik explains how writing one Thank You note each day for 365 consecutive days instilled the attitude of gratitude in his life and helped him focus on little things he had been taking for granted. The process of doing this, he shares, transformed his life in so many ways that he did not expect.

If 365 days seems...

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The gratitude visit (DW#653)

Yesterday we talked writing a letter to thank someone personally for the difference they have made in your life. Today, let us consider taking this practice one step further:

Instead of mailing or e-mailing the letter, consider visiting the recipient of your gratitude letter and reading the letter to them yourself.

Here is how to schedule a gratitude visit:

• Let the person know that you would like to meet with them to share something without being too specific about what it is.

• When you meet this person, let them know that you are grateful to them and that you would like to read them a letter you wrote expressing your gratitude. Ask that they not interrupt you until you are done reading the letter.

• Take your time reading the letter. While you read, pay attention to your reactions and the reactions of the recipient.

• After you have read the letter, listen to his or her reaction to the letter and be ready to discuss your feelings together.

• Remember...

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Gratitude Journal Prompts part 5 (DW#651)

41. What is your favorite season and what do you like about it?

42. Describe your oldest friend. What do you like most about this person?

43. What is your favorite charity and why do you support it?

44. Write about a challenging person in your life (i.e. someone you frequently disagree with) and the qualities you like about this person.

45. What book are you most grateful for having read? How has it impacted your life?

46. What is something that comes easily to you, but is challenging for others?

47. What freedoms are you most grateful for?

48. What are 3 things that you are grateful for having learnt? Who taught them to you?

49. Who is the people you are most grateful to have in your life right now, apart from family?

50. Who are three historical figures that you are grateful you know about?

[Some of these prompts have been curated and adapted from 120 Gratitude Journal Prompts https://www.developgoodhabits.com/gratitude-journal-prompts/]

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