The holiday season is often a time when people reflect on the things that they appreciate most in life. Research suggests that gratitude has a variety of benefits including improved mental and physical health as well as more satisfying social relationships. A recent article published by the Greater Good Magazine suggests that gratitude may also help individuals cope with stress and manage challenging emotions and situations more effectively. In the midst of the busy holiday season, remember to slow down, be present, and appreciate life’s blessings.
Here’s what the therapists at Stillpoint shared about how they cultivate gratitude in their lives during the holiday season:
“I have a tradition of traveling to Tennessee with my family to visit my in-laws for Christmas. They live in the mountains and their neighborhood is peaceful and secluded. I always make it a point to turn off my electronics and be present with my family and the beautiful scenery. This helps me to stay grounded and feel gratitude for all that I have. I am reminded that I can form a path for my daughter, creating loving memories through family tradition.” -Audrey Keeton, MSW, LCSW
"I bake. Most of the year I do not bake, but at Christmas I pull out my mother's and grandmother's recipes, and I bake. Sometimes I bake with my children and sometimes I bake by myself. In either scenario, I feel gratitude for the people who have been part of my life, who taught me their traditions, and who have loved me. I feel gratitude for the opportunity to share this tradition and this love with my children." -Jessica King, MSW, LCSW
“One way I cultivate gratitude around the holidays is that I take the time to enjoy and reflect on the little moments like cooking the food, the little messes that come along with it, the laughter, and the joys that come along with starting my own traditions as a newlywed!! Take some time this holiday season to slow down, set boundaries, and enjoy those little moments that can often be so big when it comes to gratitude within our lives.” -Crystal Guarascio, LPC
“I try to remember that the holiday offers time for me to be present in my own life and that regardless of any obligation I might feel, I get to decide what to do with those moments.” -Shanna Dickens, LCSW, LCAS
What are some ways that you can cultivate gratitude in your life during the holiday season?
Click here to read the full article on gratitude from the Greater Good Magazine.
I recently announced that Stillpoint Counseling is expanding this July. This is exciting news! After just 1 year of going into private practice solo, I am humbled to say it was successful. It IS successful! Every day I wake up and think, “Is this really happening?!” It is in that moment I make the choice to walk humbly forward to the next task or the next decision for the business. I wrote a blog post last year about this time on the fear I had when starting the business. All those same thoughts hold true, but it is interesting to reflect on the differences in the process from last year to this year.
Last year that post was all about how our negative thoughts and self-doubt “weed” up our mind and can hold us back from growth. Check out the post here for the inspiration on the power of intention and finding the middle path between being fearful and being fearless. This year I have much the same feelings however it is much more of an embodied experience of walking the middle path. By embodied, I mean a tangible, real, and felt experience as opposed to a cognitive process.
To start my explanation, I want to discuss the popular psychological term - “imposter syndrome”. While not a clinical diagnosis, you hear many people talk about this phenomenon to describe the pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear being exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome holds us back when we become consumed by the thoughts of “you aren’t good enough”, “what if people find out you are scared”, or “you don’t have all the answers, you should just quit”. Those thoughts are the imposter or the self-critic telling you that it would be easier to quit because taking the risk would mean allowing others to see your truth. The imposter would tell you that the truth they would see is your faults and short comings. The real truth is that you risk people seeing your greatness and sometimes that is just as scary.
Marianne Williamson has said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” (Read the rest of her poem here)
I think we fear our greatness because to truly be great we have to let go of the control a little bit. We have to be vulnerable. We have to expose our secret dreams and desires to the people and energies around us. The risk is the dream may get lost or we may get hurt in the process of putting it out into the world. BUT, the truth is that holding on to the dream doesn’t necessarily keep it safe. It just keeps the dream buried and will never manifest.
The answer to making great changes and reaching our goals is still in finding the middle path. This does start with challenging the negative thoughts and beliefs that hold us back. However, I feel this middle path in my body more these days. The word for the felt sense is “humble”. As I mentioned when I started this post: “I humbly walk forward to the next task”.
The definition of humble is “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.” This may sound self-deprecating, but I believe it is the ultimate sense of finding the middle path toward embracing our full potential. When we are humble, we acknowledge and embrace our own insignificance in a larger whole. We see our accomplishments not as a symbol of our own talents and skills, but as a reflection of our harmony with the world around us.
This business is my dream and it is wonderfully a blend of different parts of me; however, the growth of this business is due to the energy and consciousness of many people in our community. It is the colleagues that have said, “I want to be part of this”. It is the community members that have sent referrals saying, “I think this is what this family needs right now.” It is clients who show up consistently and say “I am worth this work and I am going to use it in my life and show others who I am”. It is mothers, fathers, children, foster parents, teachers, and so many more who are making choices to live holistically and to foster mindfulness in their daily lives. If it weren’t for all those people, I wouldn’t be able to live out my dream.
So, walking the middle path is felt for me in humbleness. When I feel fear, I step back to the middle path by remembering all those that are on this journey with me and who are doing far harder tasks than me day to day. In that moment, I am grateful for this opportunity. Grateful I get to shine, because so many others are lighting the path for me as they shine their greatness in this world.
I. Am. Humbled. I am lower in importance than this work - this important work of lifting our community out of chronic stress holistically, and the work that is driving the growth of this business. Gosh, even in writing these words and reading them on the computer screen, I am in awe and so grateful that this is manifesting now and that I am able to be part of it. When I stay grounded in that knowledge, the imposter is squashed. I know my truth is to serve in this way.
There is a growing body of research for the practice of mindfulness and the use of meditation to enhance overall well-being and health. You have probably heard of mindfulness, but how much do we really understand or practice this day to day?
Mindfulness is the action of paying attention to what is happening in the present moment without overly reacting, analyzing, or judging. Most of our distress lives in this "past or future thinking". When we slow down enough to recognize the present moment, there is a calming effect. We can recognize in the present moment that we are safe; that we are enough; and, that we have time to make the next right action.
John Kabot-Zinn is an author and leading educator on mindfulness in American mainstream. He developed the program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and lectures on mindfulness around the country. In a recent lecture I watched, Kabot-Zinn showed the calligraphy for the word mindfulness (shown here on the blog). He points out the character is composed of two ideograms. The top symbol means “presence” and the bottom symbol means “heart”. So, he points out that a true understanding of mindfulness is that it is “presence of heart”. I love this definition! We are practicing mindfulness to have a presence of our heart. When we are mindful, we are able to distance ourselves from the running narrative in our head of past and future worries. When we are mindful, we are able to detach from judgements or attachment to outcomes. When we are mindful, we are aligned with the energy of the heart.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness including mindful eating, mindful walking – basically doing any daily task with a “presence of heart” and an intention to connect the present moment. Meditation is the formal practice of just paying attention in a systematic way, which can increase our ability to maintain mindfulness in everyday life. Meditation can as simple as sitting still for a couple minutes and focusing on the sensation of your breath.
An easy way to get comfortable and acquainted with meditation is through the use of apps. Below I have included a list by age of some of my favorite meditation apps and programs. There are many other options out there, so you can also do some exploring for yourself. You are never too young or old to get started with meditation. So, grab your phone, tablet, or computer and try one of these out today!
The Therapist Blog
Musings from the other side of the couch