How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

Over the past 15 months, I have dealt with such a wide variety of emotions, all due to some pretty big life changes.

While the start of 2017 was phenomenal, it quickly turned into a downward spiral around the time I no longer had a full-time job and could not find a replacement for the next 11 months. Interview after interview, no matter how well I thought it went, I never received an offer. For jobs I did take part-time, it wasn’t sustainable (too long of a drive, pay too low, etc). I allowed this to affect me, falling into a victim mindset of not being good enough, or there was something wrong with me. Along the way, a series of unfortunate hair color jobs happened, and my hair began falling out in clumps, and nothing I did could make it stop (that is for another blog post). On top of that, I felt like an outsider anywhere I went to practice yoga, and I couldn’t find a good community of people to be around.

I don’t say all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say this to show you how easily one can fall into a depressed state when you allow outside circumstances to control your life, and all you want to do is sit around and cry because you feel powerless.

depressed dog funny

Basically how I felt every day in 2017

You would think – after all of the self-help seminars and books I’ve read, this would be impossible to happen. Except – I’m human. And while I a let 2017 get to me, I made a decision at the end of the year – no more.

I am writing this because 1) I am afraid of what people will think of me if they knew I was depressed (so I am making myself write this because that fear is dumb), and 2) I hope that what has helped pull me out of a dark hole can maybe help someone else dealing with some darkness in their life.

So here I am, 4 months after I made the declaration that I was no longer going to be a victim, feeling like a completely different person, crying tears of joy some days because I am just so damn happy.

So how did this happen?

3 Things.

Gratitude. Commitment. Friendship.

It began with a decision to change my mind. And while I had tried to change my thoughts many times last year, nothing ever stuck, and I kept ending back in a downward spiral. Insert:

Friendship + Gratitude + Commitment. I texted my 2 best friends in a group text and said, “Let’s start each day with a text to each other about what we are grateful for, and what our goal for the day is. That way, we can start each day off on the right foot and keep each other accountable.” Over time, we all started doing the Tony Robbins 15 minute gratitude priming practice, which forced us to focus on and really feel gratitude. It also had us visualize what we want in the future, which allowed us to look forward to something in the future + change our beliefs about what we think is possible. (There are days we struggle, so a small text or snap to each other saying what we are struggling about brings advice and positivity from each other). Sometimes I switch up and do 20 minutes of Transcendental meditation, but I always, always, end with gratitude and visualization.
At first, I felt really dumb. I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me doing the Tony Robbins priming exercise, because you have to pump your arms up and down and breathe really loudly. Eventually, he started to join me, and it made the meditation that much more powerful!

How I feel I look Like When Priming

It was really difficult to do at first, and I didn’t really start seeing a change in my mindset the first 3-5 times I did it. Then, I started to allow myself to feel things, like love and gratitude for people and situations. And the visualization at the end was the best part, because I could dream about anything I wanted (like a new job!) and really feel like I already had it!

On top of this, I committed to finding a job, even if it meant working as a personal trainer at a gym full time getting paid pennies. I needed something different than what I was currently doing to force me to learn and grow, and I had to set my ego aside and just. do it.

Once I stopped trying to control everything, everything started to fall into place. I met new people that led to new experiences that will forever have an impact on my life/spirituality/consciousness, I started a business with a new friend, my boyfriend and I’s business started taking off, I started taking on new clients for private yoga/personal training sessions, and I had 3 job offers. To say the least, I was dumbfounded.

Did all of these wonderful things happen just from starting a daily gratitude practice?

I say yes. I spent all of last year resisting uncertainty, trying to hold onto things that I no longer had any place for in my life. I needed to grow, but I wasn’t allowing it to happen. I tried to force my life to be and look a certain way, and when it didn’t happen, I was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t until I gave into uncertainty, agreed to say yes to things I felt uncomfortable doing, and became open to a host of experiences that I initially rejected, that life started to turn around.

Practicing gratitude has taught me that consistently focusing your attention on thoughts that serve you and bring you AND others up, there is no way that you can be down. And when I say practice gratitude – I mean really feeling it. If you have a hard time doing it, just start with one thing. There were days when I repeated the same gratitude thought(s) because I couldn’t think of anything or create that internal feeling of gratitude. Now, I have a gratitude journal that I write in every night, thanking the universe for everything I have right now.

So there it is – nothing too fancy, nothing too hard – just a small shift in mindset to commit to practicing gratitude with my friends everyday.

With everything I’ve struggled with and been through, I hope what has helped me can somehow help others. And for anyone out there who has been through this and made it out alive – what are your tips for getting to a happier place? Leave a comment below, you never know how much 5 minutes of your time could positively impact another person’s life 🙂

Presence

This past week, I  flew out to Costa Rica on an adventure. I went to School of the World in Jaco, a place where you can be productive while on vacation. I decided to take spanish lessons and yoga classes, 2 of my top interests at the moment. I went, thinking I was going to improve my spanish and maybe deepen my yoga practice; however, what I got out of this trip was something I never expected.  I learned to slow down, for the first time in my life. I met people who had such a sense of adventure, a joy for life. And it touched a very deep part of me that I have not been faithful to, a part that has been buried deep for so long. Hearing others stories of travel, seeing their dreams, their desires, learning their reason for travel, their life stories… it was beautiful. So many people coming from all over the world to one place, all for the same reason – to experience. To experience adventure,  the beauty and love of other countries, a change in their lives… And it opened my eyes to the present. To allow myself to slow down, to not always rush around.

I have always listened to that voice, urging me to rush, to not stop and be in the moment. And there is that other voice, that always tells me to slow down. to be patient. to relax. and that loud voice of anxiousness has always, always won. Always afraid to let go, to let that silence overcome me. To sit still for 2 seconds, afraid of what thoughts might come crashing in. Afraid of that space, the space that allows one to be present and enjoy life. But not anymore. I have felt this shift happening within me the past few weeks; that gut feeling that things are changing, that I am changing. I am feeling more at peace, allowing myself to enjoy things I would always brush off and not care about. And that loud voice, telling me to always be on the go… it is scared. it is scared that it won’t be listened to anymore, lost in the silence it so greatly fears. And I am embracing it, slowly, cautiously catching glimpses of the peace that comes with just being.

As I lay on my yoga mat tonight in Shavasana, concentrating on my Ujjayi Breath, I chant the mantra **”I choose to enjoy this present moment. I choose to enjoy this present moment.” Hearing the breath come in and out of my nose, through my throat… Letting go of all tension in my face, my arms, my legs, I feel the energy running through my body. I am aware of the sounds around me, yet  am somehow stepping out of my mind, aware of myself, my thoughts and how my body feels. And I realize, that I am present. It is so peaceful, yet so startling – I knew that this is how every person should feel – beautiful, at peace, an overwhelming feeling of love. It was just a quick glimpse in a short time, but it brought me such joy. It was like something shifted in me – I let go of having to be in control of every move and thought, focusing only on the sensation of my body and the sounds around me. I just WAS. I wasn’t a body, I wasn’t my thoughts… I was everything, and I was all around. I didn’t want to stop being in that moment – it was so refreshing, so new, so relaxing. Like taking a hot shower after a long day, or taking off your shoes after being on your feet all day. Relief. Something your body welcomes, that calm, that release of stress – it craves it, never wanting that feeling to go away.

Being present is hard. It is like learning a new way to live, a new way to breathe, a new way to run… learning a new language, to excel at a sport, to improve your posture. It will take time, but practice will make you better. Just sticking with it, and knowing that at your core being, you are love and joy. You are here, but are just bogged down with the thoughts of everyday life. So slow down. Focus on your breath. Develop a mantra. Take a few seconds to be aware of the present moment in the middle of your day.

You never know when your last moment on earth will be, so will it really matter if you are a few minutes late? Will it matter if that car cut you off? And does it make sense to worry about things that will most likely never happen? No, not really. Most everything can wait. And if you don’t know, just like anyone else on this earth does not know when their time is up, you might as well be enjoying the present moment while you are here. So take a longer detour, enjoy things you would normally pass by, be a few minutes late to work. Be here. Be aware. Others will pick up on your presence – and in the words of Marianne Williamson, “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

**I choose to enjoy this present moment mantra comes from the book of meditations, Expand this Moment, by John Selby. It is a simple meditation that you can say at any time in the day to bring you centered and back to the present moment (kind of like a coffee break for the mind :))

–  “I choose” – enables you to assume control over your own mind

– “to enjoy” – specifies where you aim your attention – at enjoyment

– “this moment” – aims your attention at the immediate sensory events happening inside and around you right now

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