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Mindfulness

How often are you caught up in your thoughts, worrying about tomorrow, regretting yesterday, or waiting for something to happen? Are you aware and conscious of what you are experiencing right now? Do you notice the strain on your eyes from staring at your computer for too long? Or is that just me?

This week’s topic is about mindfulness. I’ll try to remember.

Bedtime meditation

As I lie in bed at night, I practice a simple gratitude meditation before I fall asleep. For about five minutes, I review my day, and focus on a few things that I am thankful for (trash cans, toilet paper, healthy toenails). It is not as important what my gratitude is about (whether it something small, like the London transport working, or something big, like the London transport working), but that my feelings are genuine (like when the London transport is working).

If I can foster these feelings of gratitude, then I sleep more deeply, and when I wake up the next morning I am centered and excited to start my day. How my day starts has a huge impact on the rest of my day. If I wake up feeling grumpy, for example, the London transport usually breaks down. So if 5 minutes or reflection can keep my underground running, how can I resist?

If you’re having trouble, here is another gratitude meditation. Or, just visit the Transport for London to see how well I’m doing.

Thankful lists

There are quite a few lists of what people on the
internet are thankful for.

From my exhaustive search, I learned a number of quality things:

  1. People are notably more thankful around thanksgiving.
  2. People tend to be very thankful for their family and friends. Either that, or they’re concerned their family might discover their list and question why they’re not on it.
  3. People tend not to be thankful for just being alive. (Or they don’t think to write it down.)
  4. Bloggers like to make lists.

Some of the more intriguing items people were thankful for:

  • Toilet paper (for obvious reasons)
  • The word “spigot”. I like to say it over and over.
  • My electric blanket, foot bag and peppermint mocha creamer for my coffee.
  • I’m thankful that even though I feel like I’m talking to air 99% of the time, I do get a kid who comes back and tells me, “Hey, I actually learned something.” I wish more of them did this.
  • Nacho Cheese Combos
  • That I have 10 healthy toenails.
  • Trash cans
  • That I’m just as excited about a life-sized Malenium Falcom cockpit as J.

Off the ground

The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.
— Amelia Earhart

Does that mean that when you fly to more daring heights you gain a deeper understanding of thankfulness when you come to rest on solid ground?

Master key

I have just found the master key to gratitude. Which is really lucky, considering that I had undertaken the arduous task of finding the key to gratitude just three days ago. I figured with my highly analytical research skills, I would be able to hammer out a proposal this week detailing how I would uncover the cosmic solution from the universe… but heck with the proposal – it appeared almost effortlessly… and in just three days! What can I say… thanks. Perhaps I am ready to tackle finding the meaning of life.

Better sleep, more energy

Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness conducted at UCDavis mentioned some of the benefits of being grateful:

  • Participants felt better about their lives as a whole.
  • They were more optimistic about the upcoming week.
  • They were more likely to have made progress towards important personal goals.
  • They had higher levels of positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
  • They had greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, and better sleep duration and sleep quality.

Post-MBA, I see many of my friends working long tiring hours in grueling business jobs, and everyone is complaining of constantly feeling exhausted. Being consciously grateful is an easy way to help improve sleep and energy during the day.

Then again, so is leaving work early and going to bed at 9:30 pm. And no, unfortunately, staying out until 5 am drinking on a work night is not, despite rumors of being a great way to spend your money on experiences you won’t remember the next day.

alarm clock

What we take for granted

A recent article from DailyOM, Empathy in Action discussed another method for practicing gratitude by taking an inventory of your life’s blessings. I tried this once, but then the IRS showed up to audit my accounts, which just made things complicated, and now I have to fill out an additional form when I do my taxes.

coins

The DailyOM suggested a slightly less painful alternative:

consider the ease with which you nourish your body and mind, feed your family, move from place to place, and attend to tasks at hand. For a great number of people, activities you may take for granted, such as attaining an education, buying healthy food, commuting to work, or keeping a clean house, represent great challenges. To experience firsthand the complex tests others face as a matter of course in their daily lives, try living without the amenities you most often take for granted.

From my experience, if you want to try living without the amenities you take for granted, and you decide to sell everything you own on e-bay:
1. Sell your computer last
2. Give the proceeds to charity
3. Move to another country to avoid another governmental audit

Simple gratitude exercise

hands

Gratitude is a very powerful mechanism for letting go of stress in your life and regaining your happiness. Here is a very simple exercise from the Positive Psychology Center at the UPenn in the article A very different kind of upper:

At the end of each day, take a moment to go over three good things that happened to you. Think about why they happened and what you did to make them happen.

You don’t even need to have a good pick-up line.