4 Ways to Practice Gratitude This Holiday Season

    —
December 31, 2019

The holiday season can be hectic and overwhelming, with many mixed emotions, from excitement to stress. It’s the perfect time to commit to a daily practice of gratitude which will help you experience more moments of contentment and joy and give you resilience to handle the many challenges (including travel and stressful relatives). And when you share your gratitude with others, you help them feel seen, valued, elevated, and help yourself feel more closely connected to people in your life. Here are four ways to practice gratitude this holiday season. 

Say Thank You and Mean It

When you thank someone, be intentional about it and put your heart and appreciation into your words. Take a moment, pause, look them in the eye, smile, and say ‘Thank you’. If there is something specific you want to thank them for, do it, go the extra step, that’s awesome.

Daily Gratitude Bookends

Begin and end your day by writing down a few things you’re grateful for. Literally bookend your day with gratitude. If you’re not a journaling type, that’s fine—how about sharing what you’re grateful for with someone else, like a family member, friend, or co-worker—in-person or via text or email. You won’t just be practicing gratitude for yourself but inspiring them to do it also. Remember to be as specific as possible and don’t neglect really small moments.

Gratitude Zoom

If you’re feeling down or caught in a negativity spiral, pause and challenge yourself to find something you can appreciate within your experience, however small. For example, if you’re sad about being sick and missing out on what you would rather be doing, can you feel grateful that you have medicine or a comfortable place to recover or people around to help care for you?

Gratitude Antidote

When something stresses you out—too much traffic, an annoying colleague, etc.—use it as a reminder to practice gratitude. You don’t have to be grateful for whatever is stressing you out, but use it as a nudge to pause, take a breath, and think of something, however small, that you are grateful for in that moment. When you do this, you prevent your brain from going into a negativity spiral, where one annoying thought brings on another, and another, and another, until you have a really rough day.

 

Nataly Kogan is an author (Happier Now), speaker, and the founder of Happier. Her work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TEDx Boston, SXSW, and Dr Oz. Nataly lives with her husband and daughter in Boston. For more, visit happier.com.

 

Nataly Kogan

Nataly Kogan is an entrepreneur, speaker, and author on a mission to help millions of people cultivate their happier skills by making simple, scientifically backed practices part of their daily life. Nataly immigrated to the US as a refugee from the former Soviet Union when she was 13 years old. Starting her life in the projects and on welfare, she went on to reach the highest levels of corporate success at companies like McKinsey & Company and Microsoft. When she still found herself unfulfilled, Nataly set out to discover what really leads to a fulfilling, happier life. Her explorations led her to create Happier, a company whose award-winning mobile application, online courses, and “Happier at Work” training programs have helped more than a million people improve their emotional health.

Nataly is a sought-after keynote speaker and has appeared in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TEDxBoston, SXSW, The Harvard Women’s Leadership Conference, and The Dr. Oz Show. She is a self-taught abstract artist and a devoted yogi. Nataly lives with her husband Avi and daughter Mia outside of Boston, although Nataly will always be a New Yorker at heart. For more, visit happier.com.

Author photo © Jonathan Gershon Stark

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4 Ways to Practice Gratitude This Holiday Season

The holiday season can be hectic and overwhelming, with many mixed emotions, from excitement to stress. It’s the perfect time to commit to a daily practice of gratitude which will help you experience more moments of contentment and joy and give you resilience to handle the many challenges (including travel and stressful relatives). And when you share your gratitude with others, you help them feel seen, valued, elevated, and help yourself feel more closely connected to people in your life. Here are four ways to practice gratitude this holiday season. 

Say Thank You and Mean It

When you thank someone, be intentional about it and put your heart and appreciation into your words. Take a moment, pause, look them in the eye, smile, and say ‘Thank you’. If there is something specific you want to thank them for, do it, go the extra step, that’s awesome.

Daily Gratitude Bookends

Begin and end your day by writing down a few things you’re grateful for. Literally bookend your day with gratitude. If you’re not a journaling type, that’s fine—how about sharing what you’re grateful for with someone else, like a family member, friend, or co-worker—in-person or via text or email. You won’t just be practicing gratitude for yourself but inspiring them to do it also. Remember to be as specific as possible and don’t neglect really small moments.

Gratitude Zoom

If you’re feeling down or caught in a negativity spiral, pause and challenge yourself to find something you can appreciate within your experience, however small. For example, if you’re sad about being sick and missing out on what you would rather be doing, can you feel grateful that you have medicine or a comfortable place to recover or people around to help care for you?

Gratitude Antidote

When something stresses you out—too much traffic, an annoying colleague, etc.—use it as a reminder to practice gratitude. You don’t have to be grateful for whatever is stressing you out, but use it as a nudge to pause, take a breath, and think of something, however small, that you are grateful for in that moment. When you do this, you prevent your brain from going into a negativity spiral, where one annoying thought brings on another, and another, and another, until you have a really rough day.

 

Nataly Kogan is an author (Happier Now), speaker, and the founder of Happier. Her work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TEDx Boston, SXSW, and Dr Oz. Nataly lives with her husband and daughter in Boston. For more, visit happier.com.

 

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Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

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Matt Gutman: Conquering a Lifetime of Panic Attacks

28% of Americans will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. Some researchers say that number is closer to 50%. Renowned ABC News correspondent, Matt Gutman, never felt afraid when assigned to active and dangerous war zones. Yet when he had to speak on live television in front of a viewership of 9 million people, the seemingly unflappable reporter suffered intense panic attacks that nearly cost him his job. To help anyone whose life has been impacted by this often misunderstood mental health challenge, Gutman shares his personal journey in No Time to Panic

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Gutman about the book and the hard-won insights he brings his readers, exploring: The importance of destigmatizing panic attack disorder; conventional and alternative healing modalities; “retiring the drill sergeant” (aka managing the inner critic); excavating unresolved grief; how panic disorder can metastasize into other psychological issues; physical threats vs. social threats (and how we tolerate them); the evolutionary purpose of anxiety; how vulnerability is often the first step toward healing; the paradox of welcoming your panic; psychedelics and ego transcendence; the power of mindfulness and meditation; and more.

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