As written here for Hip&Healthy Dec 2017
At this time of year, it’s easy to mirror the weather, and slowly slip into a dreary, gloomy mood as the days get shorter and the temperature turns cold. But who wants that? The benefits of practising gratitude are nearly endless. People who keep it front of mind, are generally happier, sleep more, express more compassion and kindness and even have stronger immune systems. In an effort to keep your mindset sunny this winter, here are my top 10 tips to kick starting a gratitude attitude!
Write it down
It might seem silly and a bit obvious, but buying yourself a gratitude journal is an awesome place to start. I love Kikki K’s range. Before you go to bed, write down what you were grateful for that day. They say repetition creates habit and this habit will keep you looking at the positives. Writing things down is also a great way to practice focus, once it’s in ink – it’s more of a commitment to yourself to keep your new gratitude attitude on track.
Zone out and podcast your commute
There is nothing worse for your mental state than going from your most vulnerable state (aka sleeping) to being squished within an inch of your life on a packed mode of public transport on your way to work. How can that NOT put you in an ungrateful and crabby mood? To make the most of a bad situation, download a podcast series. If you have to endure being wedged under people’s armpits, you might as well distract yourself. To build on your mindfulness and gratefulness while forced into a less than desirable situation; opt for comedy like ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’, interesting ‘Modern Love’ or if you’re feeling like jumping on the gratitude train head first: try the ‘Gratitude Podcast’ itself! If you can, avoid the commute completely and walk to work. It’s such a calmer, gentler way to start the day, and even if you try this a few times a week, it will make a difference. But by all means, still listen to that podcast….
Wake up at dawn
In an extension of the above, a blaring alarm is another daily occurrence that isn’t exactly going to give you the best catapult into a grateful and happy mindset for the day. Luckily, Christmas is around the corner! Ask for a sunrise alarm clock in your stocking this year. Instead of jolting you awake, these awesome inventions simulate light to ease you out of bed. Their sunrise and sunset options last for 30 minutes. This wellness wake up is the perfect little indulgence for your mind, body and soul.
This one is a no-brainer, exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. If you don’t already, regular exercise teemed with healthy eating, is not just something we all need to do for our physical health. It’s JUST as important for our mental wellbeing and happiness, and in turn will get your attitude and outlook on a brighter and more confident road.
Helping those less fortunate than you for the sheer sake of helping is one of the most grounding of experiences. Putting a smile on other people’s faces, is most definitely going to put a smile on yours and there are some wonderful causes in need of a helping hand around the UK; for instance the Finsbury Park Food Cycle is perfect for any foodie and London based Hip & Healthy readers. If you don’t want to spare half a day to volunteer however, even donating old clothes to charity is a step in the right direction and will give you those warm – I’m making a difference – kind of feelings.
Learn from your grandparents
We tend to underestimate our elders. When you’re young, they are already old, and we generally find it hard to connect with someone so far away – generationally speaking. Take the time to sit with them, listen to their stories. Be patient and present. You’ll get insights into love, life, loss and perspective that you can’t learn or read from a book. They aren’t going to be around forever, so take advantage of them being around. Slow down, and appreciate their wealth of knowledge on the world.
Even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body – there is something very mindful and stress relieving about painting. It’s almost like a gateway to meditation, or a form of meditation for those of us that are too 21st century to just sit still. Creating art increases the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine – which has also been named ‘motivation molecule’. It boosts drive, focus and concentration. If painting really isn’t your thing, then knitting, quilting, sewing, photography and gardening are other activities that will have a similar effect.
Get out in nature
Improved sleep, improved eye health, stress relief, immune system boost and clean air. These are just some of the benefits of side stepping into nature. Apparently people today spend up to 25% less time enjoying nature than people did just 20 years ago 2. But the truth is, the therapeutic effects of nature are undeniable, with a growing number of studies outlining a very evident connection between nature and healthier and happier people. Translation: get outside for a walk in the countryside stat!
Travelling is the perfect way to help you recognise just how fortunate you are, as it helps you to realise your privilege and all the things you have, to be thankful for. We are very blessed to live in a world, and in a location that makes it so easy to travel. Even a weekend away – one or two nights – is a good way to take stock of your own life, re-evaluate and appreciate. Meeting people of different backgrounds, cultures and climates, makes us more accepting of diversity and compassionate towards others.
Get a Pen Pal
And we’ve gone full circle, back to good old fashioned writing. In a time of technology, there is nothing more mindful and grounding than getting back to basics. If you live abroad, send a postcard home instead of a Facebook message. Write a letter to your best friend that you haven’t been able to catch up with for a while, or connect with someone new! PenPal World, WattPad and Penpals Now are just some of the ways you can find someone to write too.
Cover photo by Alexandria Baldridge from Pexels