Category Archives: Gratitude

Holidays and Appreciation

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Festive holiday wreathAs this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.”  While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair.

As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me.  In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

It’s the Holidays – Time to Buy!

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales.  We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price.  Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever.  We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend.

We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation.  Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?”  Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping  and buying related event in this country for many people.   If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

No Gifts – Bah Humbug?

In my family and circle of friends, there isn’t much gift-giving that happens anymore.  This started a few years ago with one family member opting out of giving gifts, and like a domino effect, virtually everyone else jumped on the “no gifts” bandwagon.  I now only buy gifts for a few people, although I enjoy spending time around the holidays with a number of others.  I consider it a win-win proposition, as I experience much less stress this time of year yet I still get to enjoy being around the key people in my life. However, without the hubbub of purchasing, wrapping, and sending gifts, I’ve had to give some introspection to the topic of what Christmas means to me.  More on that topic later in this post…

A Thanksgiving “About Face”

On the other hand, for many years, I dreaded Thanksgiving.  As someone with a long history of eating disorders, I didn’t like the association this holiday had with overindulging in fatty food.  I considered Thanksgiving to be a day when I would either have to veer off my Spartan eating plan or be faced with a barrage of questions as to why I wasn’t stuffing my face like everyone else.

I have since changed my perspective on Thanksgiving dramatically and now consider it to be a more authentic occasion than Christmas.  After all, the purpose of Thanksgiving is to simply reflect upon the blessings in your life and express gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with.  If a person is religious or spiritual, showing appreciation toward God for what he has given you is a part of the occasion, but it also includes the expression of thanks to those in your life who have shown you kindness, respect, and love.

A Beautiful Thanksgiving Gesture…

I received a very touching letter (handwritten at that!) from a friend this Thanksgiving.  In this letter, my friend simply expressed her sincere and heartfelt appreciation for my friendship.  It wasn’t a long letter; in fact, it probably took her less than thirty minutes to write, address, and mail.  Yet this letter is one that I still have on my desk so I can read it every now and then, and it continues to bring tears to my eyes.  It feels so good to know that my presence in this person’s life is meaningful.  This friend doesn’t buy me Christmas presents, but I don’t care.   Her letter meant more to me than any Christmas present ever could.

The True Meaning of the Holidays

I shared the story above because I have decided that the true meaning of the holiday season for me is the message which Thanksgiving represents, gratitude and appreciation.  I’ve decided to not just take one day to reflect upon the blessings in my life, but to consider the true gifts that I’ve been given throughout the entire holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s – and hopefully beyond)!   I believe that most of us don’t take enough time to pause and express thanks for the bounty that exists in our lives.  If we think about it, the majority of us have more blessings in our lives than curses.

The Glass is Half Full

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt a “glass half full” attitude toward life.  It really is true that whatever it is you are looking for, you are sure to find it.  If you search for what’s missing in your life, a list of the things you lack will be easy to compile.  However, if you take a moment to reflect upon what’s present, you’ll create an even longer list AND you’ll feel much better for it.

Don’t Wait to Appreciate Your Life!

I don’t want to wait until I receive a dire diagnosis or lose someone dear to me to count my blessings.  I especially don’t want to list my blessings in hindsight.  I want to enjoy them in the moment, where they exist each and every day.  So instead of lamenting my lack of significant income, I am grateful for the freedom I have to pursue my interests and passions and to be able to spend the majority of my days doing what I choose to do.  And instead of cursing the wrinkles and gray hairs which now mark my middle-aged visage, I am happy for the wisdom which I’ve amassed through spending 44 years on this planet.

I will not take for granted that I will be blessed with another 44 years or more, as that may not be the case.  The countless tragic stories we hear on the news and experience in our personal circles make it all too clear that we cannot control how much time we have.  In a flash, this miracle of life can be taken away from us.

Fear Not, My Friends…

The uncertainties of life do not have to make us sad or afraid.  If we live in the moment, we can experience joy and gratitude in every breath and in each blessed day.  I am so happy to be alive and I am so grateful for my life, flaws and all!  I appreciate the blessings which I have been given and I vow to carry that appreciation with me as I move forward in life.  As this holiday season progresses, I will strive to make every day Thanksgiving.

Closing Quotes on Appreciation

I close with a few quotes which I feel punctuate my message well:

  • Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Hilary Cooper
  • When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins
  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
  • If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart
  • He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Gratitude Revisited

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As this is the week of Thanksgiving, it seems apropos to revisit the important topic of gratitude.

I believe that gratitude is one of the critical ingredients for happiness!  When we are grateful for what we have, we are better able to live in the moment and enjoy our lives.

The Glass is Half Full!

No matter how many troubles we have at a given point in time, we can always find aspects of our lives that we appreciate and enjoy.   This “glass half-full” type of attitude can help us to embrace what’s right in our lives instead of lament that which we feel is wrong.

Some “Greatest Hits”

As this is a holiday week (and hence, there is more to do in less time…) and I have written quite a bit on the topic of gratitude in the past, I have decided to highlight a few of my past posts instead of creating all new content for this week.  The three posts which I have chosen to revisit all focus on the ever important topic of gratitude.  Please see the post summaries below and click on the post title to view that post in its entirety.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite past posts.  As usual, your comments are welcomed!  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.

This post was written at the halfway point of my year-long quest to heal my health and my life.  Since beginning “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2010, I have gained a number of powerful insights about myself and about life.  I summarized my insights in four categories:  gratitude, attitude, hope, and healing.  I expand upon each of these items and commit to continuing my healing project and sharing even more wins related to health, relationships and success moving forward.

Six Months Already?

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Thumbs up!

It’s hard to believe, but it has been 6 months since I started “The Healing Project.” My first post was made on February 3, 2010, and outlined my quest to heal my health and my life over the course of one year.  My healing project utilizes the principles of Louise Hay and other teachers and also involves treating myself with more kindness and compassion.

Insights and Wins

Last week, upon the occasion of my 44th birthday, I posted my “Reflections at Mid-Life.” This week’s post is dedicated to sharing the insights I’ve gained and the triumphs I’ve made at the half-way point of my “healing project.” These powerful wins can be encapsulated within the following categories, each of which will be covered in the body of this post:

  • Gratitude
  • Attitude
  • Hope
  • Healing

Gratitude

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears” – Anthony Robbins

The quote above exemplifies the power of gratitude as a spiritual practice in life.  When one reflects on the many blessings which are present in his life, he is less likely to experience fear and anxiety. The practice of gratitude involves having a “glass half full” outlook and looking for what’s right in your life instead of what’s wrong.  It is definitely true that if you look for something, you’re going to find it, so why not look for the good instead of the bad?

Since beginning my healing project, I have adopted a much more powerful attitude of gratitude in my life.  I am decidedly more present to the abundance of blessings that exist in my life, and I much more readily rejoice in the “little things” which bring me joy and peace on a daily basis.  I am more easily able to live in the moment and less likely to either dwell on the mistakes and pain of the past or ruminate on the “what ifs” of the future.

One of my early posts was on “The Practice of Gratitude” and included the suggestion for keeping a gratitude and success journal on a regular basis. I wholeheartedly re-affirm that suggestion now!  I strive to make entries in my gratitude journal on most days and find that it helps me to live more in the moment and focus more on my blessings rather than my challenges.

Attitude

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” – Frederick Langbridge

Closely related to gratitude is attitude.  Adopting a positive attitude in life can help you navigate your way through the many challenges which you’ll face on your life journey. I used to be a pessimist and was always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.  I used to believe that it was better to expect the worst because that way, I would never be disappointed.  What I didn’t realize was that I spent a lot of time and energy needlessly worrying about calamities which never happened. Instead, I could have invested that mental and emotional capital in reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams.

My healing project has involved a lot of attitudinal shifts.  I have become much more keenly attuned to my thoughts and the impact they have on my health and my life experience. My increased awareness has allowed me to question my thoughts and assess how they are or are not serving me.   I am now much more able to rapidly shift my thinking to a more positive space upon the realization that I am engaging in “stinking thinking.”  I now spend far fewer precious moments each day in a negative space and my husband is delighted that I have become a more upbeat person.

Hope

“In all things, it is better to hope than to despair.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When 2010 began, I didn’t feel a lot of hope for myself or my life. I felt like a run-down, unhealthy, washed up “loser,” and I am not exaggerating much in this characterization.  While I was very happy to have a loving and supportive husband, I felt despondent about my many health challenges, my lack of career success and prospects, and the absence of close relationships with my friends and family members. Until my epiphany while working out one January evening, I was very discouraged and had little idea how to go about changing my course in life.

The simple acts of declaring my healing project and beginning this blog infused a thread of hope into my consciousness, and this thread has grown into a small but beautiful tapestry over the course of the past six months.  While I cannot report a completely clean bill of health, a thriving business, or a broad circle of friends, I can express increased hope for growth and improvement in all areas of my life.

I can also state that there have been significant positive changes in various facets of my life. I have revitalized some of my relationships and reached out to new acquaintances, and this has led to a few new career opportunities as well as an enhanced sense of connection with others.  My health has also improved in several key ways which I will elaborate on further in the next section.

All in all, I feel that I am on a positive path and have much more hope for a compelling future than I did at the beginning of this year.  I am gradually filling in the details and color in the vision for my future, and that is helping me to move forward in creating a more happy and peaceful life.

Healing

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.” – Friedrich Nietzche

A big part of my healing project relates to my overcoming a number of health challenges which have been adversely impacting my life. Some of these illnesses have plagued me for many years, while others have cropped up only recently. Fortunately, none of these difficulties are life-threatening, yet all have been troubling to me and have affected my quality of life.

As I am a big believer in Louise Hay’s philosophy that we create every illness in our bodies by virtue of our thoughts, I also ascribed to her powerful notion that I could overcome my ailments through changing my thinking.   I made a point of shifting my thoughts from negative to positive and repeating empowering affirmations related to my health.  I have also worked on being more gentle and loving toward myself, as Louise Hay asserts that all “when we really love and accept and approve of ourselves, then everything in life works.”

I am pleased to report that I have seen some noteworthy improvements in my health since beginning my healing project.  I am experiencing far fewer body aches and pains and feel a higher level of health and vitality.  My health conditions which have either disappeared or dramatically decreased in intensity include my neck pain, my TMJ syndrome, my digestive distress, and the throat condition which I wrote about in my post titled “It’s Always Something!” In terms of the latter condition, rather than having to take prescription medication twice a day as recommended by the specialist I saw, I am only taking a low dose of an over-the-counter drug each morning and my symptoms have almost completely abated!

On To the Second Half…

As I move into the second half of my yearlong healing project, I am both excited and encouraged to continue the progress I’ve made thus far.   I am confident that I will succeed in my quest to heal myself and my life in one year. I look forward to sharing my many wins related to health, relationships, and success along the way and in February 2011!

My Week of Silence

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Woman with Her Finger on Her LipsI just spent over a week without speaking.  No, I didn’t go to an ashram or a silent retreat; I simply had no voice for nine days.

My laryngitis was related to the flu virus that I mentioned in my last post and although it wasn’t unexpected, I never thought it would last so long.  However, since I am a big believer in the messages of our physical ailments, I decided to look for the meaning and lessons of my “week of silence.”

What Does Louise Hay Say?

As a first step in my search for answers, I referenced “You Can Heal Your Life” to see what Louise Hay had to say about laryngitis.  While I generally recognize myself and my situation in her remarks, I was left with a huge question mark on this one.  Louise Hay’s probable causes for laryngitis are:

  • So mad you can’t speak
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Resentment of authority

I am not an angry person. In fact, I rarely feel much anger at all.  I do experience a fair amount of frustration, but the thought of my being so angry I cannot speak is highly foreign to me. I do sometimes fear speaking up for myself, but this was not an issue for me around the time I lost my voice.  I also resent authority at times, but my rebellious streak has been tempered by age and I don’t feel this is a prominent issue for me any longer.

Could Louise Be Wrong This Time?

Could it be that the great Louise Hay is wrong in this instance? Possibly… She has stated that her probable causes ring true approximately 95% of the time.  Perhaps I’m i n that other 5%.  If I am angry at all, it’s about some of my life circumstances, such as my health issues and my career woes.  I have some anger toward myself for my role in these issues, particularly my failure to stick with a single career path long enough to become an expert in a certain profession.  But I would have to say that these are more frustrations than anger and are so long-standing that I would doubt they would lead to an acute bout of laryngitis in July 2010.

Worse Before It Gets Better?

One possibility that I have entertained is that my Healing Project has increased my focus on issues and feelings which had previously simmered more deeply beneath my conscious awareness.   In some respects, it feels as if things have gotten worse instead of better since I began this journey – and this blog – five months ago.  Sometimes things do get worse before they get better, but I am still optimistic that I can and will heal myself and my life in one year.

Great Communicator

Although Louise Hay may not be spot on regarding the probable causes for my laryngitis, I have derived a number of personal insights concerning losing my voice.  First, a bit of background information… I love to talk and am known to be a very talkative and animated person.  I have been a member of Toastmasters International for over six years and have been working on further honing my verbal communication skills through that venue.  I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate well through both writing and speaking.

Taking Our Blessings For Granted

We often take our gifts and our blessings for granted; it’s human nature to reflect more on what’s missing than on what’s present in our lives. I never really thought twice about being able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings whenever I desired to do so.  However, in my “week of silence,” the only sounds which were emitted from my lips were quiet whispers.  I was unable to speak on the phone or even verbalize a food order in a restaurant.  When a passerby said hello to me, I could only nod or wave in response.

Unable to Speak

It was difficult for me not to be able to talk, not just logistically but emotionally as well. I was rendered much more dependent upon my husband to do things for me and to be my “voice.”  I reflected upon those who are physically unable to speak for long periods of time and felt great empathy for them.  I wondered if they needed to carry a sign around wherever they went to alert the world of their handicap and if they were perpetually armed with a notepad and pen so that they could communicate even the most basic of ideas to others.

I also thought about Roger Ebert, the film critic rendered unable to speak as a result of throat and mouth cancer.  I saw him on Oprah earlier this year and marveled at how he has adapted to the changes in his life.  I saw his happiness at simply being alive and his gratitude toward his wife for how much she has helped him through his years of illness.

The Importance of Listening

What were my lessons from my week of silence?  I can think of a few… First, I am profoundly grateful for my gift for speaking and the ease with which I generally communicate through the spoken word.  Second, I realized that I need to spend more time in silence; that I need to listen and reflect more than I usually do.

I remember an old saying which expresses that we were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.  I became aware last week that I don’t listen enough, as I am too preoccupied with talking.  When my husband and I go on long walks, I generally do most of the talking, but last week I ended up listening more to what he had to say.  When I’m not clamoring for “air time,” I get to learn more about others, including my wonderful husband, who is my best friend in the world.

Focus on What’s Right, Not What’s Wrong

Finally, I learned to appreciate the health that I do have instead of dwelling upon my niggling health complaints.  I was reminded that what we focus upon grows, so I should focus on my physical blessings instead of on my defects.  Of course, I will continue to pursue solutions to that which ails me, but my main focus should be on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

It’s true that I still experience many migraines, but I also have excellent vision and hearing, as well as a strong and resonant voice most of the time.  That voice is gradually re-emerging after my week of silence.  It sounds hoarse and raspy now, but I am ever so grateful to be able to talk to my husband in more than a whisper.

A Closing Affirmation – I Love My Voice!

I close with the powerful affirmations on the voice from Louise Hay’s “Love Your Body”:

“I voice my opinions.  I speak up for myself.  I sing the praises of love and joy.  My words are the music of life.  I choose the thoughts that express beauty and gratitude.  I proclaim my oneness with all of life.  I love and appreciate my beautiful voice!”

I am so grateful to be able to speak! I am so grateful to be well after almost two weeks of being sick.  I am grateful for the many health blessings I have, including my wonderful voice. I am grateful for this day, and for every day of my life, and I wish you all a wonderful week!

Missing Tile Syndrome

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Today’s post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I highly recommend this book as a concise and extremely informative book on the often elusive subject of happiness.  Dennis presents a number of life-changing philosophies in his book, but one of the best is the concept of the “missing tile syndrome.”

Imagine this Scenario…

Ceiling TilesImagine that you are in a dentist’s office having your teeth cleaned and are thus focused on the ceiling above you.  As you glance around the room, you notice that one of the ceiling tiles is missing.  Although the majority of the ceiling is pristine and perfect, you would likely be transfixed upon that one missing tile for the remainder of your visit.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  That is fine for ceilings, as they can be perfect.  The danger is when we apply the same focus and filter to our lives…

Even if we have a wonderful and full life, there are always areas which we feel can be better.  The positive side of this is that we continue to focus upon learning and growing and bettering our life circumstances.  The downside is that we may end up obsessing on that which is missing to such an extent that it detracts from our happiness.

Examples of “Missing Tiles”

A few examples will help to illustrate this point…  I had a friend who struggled with infertility issues a number of years ago.  She lamented to me that everywhere she went, all she saw were pregnant women and babies.  I also knew a divorced woman who would venture out on the weekends, only to notice couples kissing and holding hands all around her.  These two women were so completely focused on what they didn’t have, a baby or a partner; they felt as if they were the only ones in their respective positions.

I can think of a few personal instances of “missing tile syndrome” in my life.  I mentioned my obsession with straight, sleek hair in a previous post.  I used to feel that every woman I saw had beautiful, frizz-free hair and that I was the only one around who struggled with managing coarse, frizzy locks.  Similarly, I have often lamented my thick hips and thighs and felt they were out of proportion with the rest of my body.  When I would be out and about, all I would see would be slim-hipped women with model slim legs.

Focus and Gratitude…

Of course, not all women are pregnant, not everyone is coupled up, and not all women have sleek hair or slim thighs.  However, when one is suffering from “missing tile syndrome,” the focus is only upon what is lacking, not on what is present.  When we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right in our lives, we are generally less happy as a result.

As I’ve mentioned previously, gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness and well-being. If we look for what’s right in our lives, we will surely find a number of things to celebrate.  Similarly, if we look for what’s wrong, we will be guaranteed to find those missing tiles.

Dealing with “Missing Tile Syndrome”

Awareness of “missing tile syndrome” is a first and powerful step, but Dennis Prager offers some additional suggestions for how to effectively deal with this problem.   He suggests that you do one of the following things in regards to your missing tile:

1. Get It

If you determine that your “missing tile” is absolutely essential to your happiness, you can find a way to get that which is missing in your life.  For example, if my friend with the infertility issue was unable to have a child of her own (fortunately for her, she was finally able to get pregnant…), she could have chosen to adopt a child.   Although her initial desire was to give birth to a child, adopting a child would have given her what she dearly wanted, a child to love and to raise.

2. Forget It

Although this option may not seem feasible, it is a viable solution in certain cases.  There are some missing tiles which cannot be gotten.  Dennis Prager wrote about sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife following his divorce.  Whereas he had previously gotten to spend each and every day with his child, that was no longer the case after his marriage ended.  He found himself seriously missing his son when they were apart, but he couldn’t change the fact that they now spent less time together.  Consequently, he had to dismiss the desire to be with his son all the time and instead focus on making their time together as enjoyable as possible.  When they were apart, Dennis would keep busy doing other things he enjoyed and he gradually came to accept the new situation.

3. Replace It

Sometimes, we are not able to get the exact things we want in life, but we can discover a viable replacement with which we can be satisfied.  A somewhat trivial example may concern a man who is fixated on buying a new Porsche but doesn’t have the money to make such a purchase.  This man may choose to either buy a used Porsche in good condition or he may end up purchasing a domestic sports car at a lower price.

A more serious example of replacing a missing tile may involve a woman who wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but never made it to the upper echelons of competition.   This woman may choose to open her own gymnastics studio or become a coach to young children.  By doing one of these things, she can still pursue her great passion for the sport even though her initial goal was not reached.

Personal Conclusions

Let’s get back to the personal examples which I mentioned above.  After my trauma following my recent attempt to obtain straight and sleek hair (see the post “Perspective and Appreciation”), I have decided that I need to forget about getting this missing tile.   I am choosing to accept the reality of my hair and to be grateful for what I have.  If I find myself feeling sad about the hair which I do not have, I will focus on the aspects of my appearance with which I am satisfied.  I will reflect upon my positive qualities and be grateful for those blessings instead of thinking about the “missing tile” of perfect hair.

The same is true for my thighs.  I have done all I am willing to do to make them slim and muscular.  I work out regularly and I eat well, but my thighs have not assumed the desired shape.  Since I am unwilling to pursue liposuction or extreme diet or exercise measures, I feel I need to forget the “tile” of perfect thighs.  I choose to focus on the fact that my legs are strong and effectively carry me through life.  I also choose clothing which puts less emphasis on my thighs and more emphasis on the body parts which I more readily embrace.

Self-acceptance and gratitude are key in terms of dealing with “missing tile syndrome.”   Be grateful for your blessings in life and put your focus there.  Work on accepting yourself and your life as they are, and stop lamenting your supposed “flaws” to the detriment of your happiness and inner peace.   Although I know these topics will continue to surface as I proceed with my “healing project,” I will close with the ever famous and always powerful Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

May we all live in peace and serenity and embrace our life challenges with courage and wisdom!

Perspective and Appreciation

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Most of us have things about ourselves which we don’t like or even hate, and we often waste a lot of time and energy resisting or fighting these things.  For most of my life, one of my “hates” has been my hair.   I have very thick hair, so thick that hairstylists have often commented that I had enough hair for two or three people.  In addition, my hair is naturally wavy and predisposed to frizz, tendencies which are intensified by the humid Southern California weather.

My God-given hair was not the type of hair I wanted.  I wanted the straight, sleek hair of a Scandinavian girl – or Jennifer Aniston.  I have been fighting my hair texture for as long as I can remember with countless hair products, daily flat-ironing, and a multitude of chemical processes.  None of these armaments ever worked to my satisfaction, so I continually searched for the next best thing.

Magic Bullet or Nightmare?

This past November, I thought I had found it.  I spent about four hours and over $300 at the hair salon getting what is known as a “keratin smoothing treatment.”  The result was not the nirvana I had anticipated; instead it has been a nightmare which I couldn’t have imagined.  I experienced some serious breathing problems from the formaldehyde released by the chemical process, and since the product was bonded into my hair, I was unable to remove it despite repeated washings.  Consequently, I opted to cut off close to half of my hair in order to minimize the deleterious effects.

Just when I thought I was past the worst of my nightmare, a delayed side effect occurred.  I started to lose large amounts of hair on a daily basis.  By the time I realized what was going on, I had lost so much hair that I could see parts of my scalp at my hairline and my ponytail diameter was only about half of what it used to be.   Fortunately, I think the hair loss has subsided at this point, and because I had so much hair to begin with, it is not as noticeable as might be expected.  However, I am still planning to see a dermatologist to make sure I am able to salvage my hair.

Two Key Lessons…

This is surprisingly difficult for me to write about and I am not sharing this experience to garner sympathy.  I have learned a great deal from this particular struggle and the point of this post is to share my insights.  I have titled this post “Perspective and Appreciation” because those are the two key lessons I’ve gained from my hair experience.

I would love to be able to turn back the clock such that I had never gotten the so-called keratin smoothing treatment, but I have come to understand that I needed this experience to learn what I needed to learn.  The Universe has been trying to teach me the lesson of appreciation and self-acceptance for many years.  Instead of appreciating what I had, I continued to fight it and wish for something different.

Taking Things for Granted

My hair is only one aspect of myself which I would berate and negate. While I would often receive compliments on my thick and lustrous hair, I would never take them in.  I was filled with hatred for my hair because it wouldn’t bend to my will.  Because my hair wasn’t sleek and straight, I didn’t show any love or appreciation for it; all of the energy I gave to my hair was negative.

Now that my hair is no longer long, thick or lustrous, I have been given the gift of perspective.  How true it is that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone.

How often do we take things – and people – for granted until they are no longer in our lives?

Declaring a Truce

I am declaring a truce in the war against my hair.  I am now treating my hair more lovingly and am showing appreciation for the hair that is left on my head.  I am affirming throughout the day, “I love and appreciate my hair.”  I believe that this love and appreciation will help me to save my hair.  It was not only the chemicals which destroyed my hair; it was also my negativity and distain.

How many of us treat ourselves worse than we would treat our worst enemy?  How many of us are our own worst enemy?  How much would we thrive if we were to begin to treat ourselves the way we treat our treasured pets or children?

New and Empowering Vows

From this moment on, I vow to treat myself with much more love and appreciation.  I vow to start looking more at what’s right about me instead of what’s wrong.  I know that I will stumble along the way, as old habits are hard to break.  However, the perspective I have gained from my hair trauma has shown me that I must break those old habits.  It’s time to stop beating myself up and start appreciating all of the wonderful characteristics which I know I possess.

Will you join me in my new and empowering vows?  Many of us wish and pray for peace in the world, but peace begins from within.   Stop fighting yourself and choose to love yourself instead.  I know it’s hard, but we can help each other to live a more peaceful and loving existence!

The Practice of Gratitude

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hand grasping star imageI want to briefly interrupt my discussion of Louise Hay’s Key Principles in order to share a personal practice that has made a big difference in my life.  I will return to the Key Principles in my next post…

I’ve often heard that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I don’t doubt that.  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  As  I look back on my life, I can see that even in my most difficult times, I still had a lot to be grateful for in my life.  I just had to look in the right place!  It’s all about focus and attitude, I’ve learned.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

To help me to stay aware of the many blessings in my life, I started to keep a Gratitude Journal a few years ago.  I confess that I haven’t always been consistent with this practice, but when I’ve maintained my Gratitude Journal, it’s helped me to be more positive and upbeat.  Here’s how it works…

On a daily or almost daily basis, I list three things in my life for which I am grateful. These can be big things or small things; there are no rules for what can be on the list.  I’ve found that it’s easy to think of the larger things, such as my wonderful husband, my cozy home, my cats, my vision, and my hearing.  The smaller things can be trickier to remember, yet those things also have a powerful impact in my life.  Here are some examples of some of the “small things” I’ve listed in my Gratitude Journal in recent entries:

  • I had an enjoyable walk with Mike along the water this evening.
  • The sun was out today after many, many rainy days in a row!
  • My kitties were curled up in the box on my desk all afternoon while I worked.
  • Our coffee grinder and coffee machine allow me to have delicious coffee every morning.
  • Class yesterday was both interesting and useful.

Add “Success” Entries to Your Journal

Since I have a tendency to be down on myself at times, I added a second component to my Gratitude Journal.  I also list three successes which I’ve achieved since my last journal entry.  As with the gratitude entries, it’s easy to remember our big wins, such as getting a job or a new client, completing a difficult project, or having a “crucial conversation” with a loved one.   But as we all know, such triumphs are not usually an everyday occurrence.  Yet we all have many small wins each and every day.  Noticing these wins can help us to become more present to the greatness which exists in each and every one of us.

In all honesty, I have to admit that sometimes I have to wrack my brain to come up with three successes for my Gratitude / Success Journal.   It is at these times that I really need to reflect upon what I have done well in the various areas of my life.  As with the gratitude entries, my success entries are often the “small things.”  Here are some recent examples of successes which I have recorded in my journal:

  • I got up and moving earlier this morning – was done exercising and getting ready by 10 am (I’m not a “morning person” – LOL)
  • I found a pair of jeans which fit well and are long enough for me!
  • I’ve been keeping me email in-box cleaned out and I’m not spending too much time on email.
  • I’m doing better at letting go of “should” and allowing myself to enjoy life (this is a BIG success!)
  • I ran errands and went to the gym yesterday despite not feeling like leaving the house.

How the Journal Helps…

My Gratitude/Success Journal helps me to be more present to all of the wonderful things in my life and to count my blessings instead of my problems.  It also helps me to be more aware of what I do well and to see how my small triumphs contribute to my life satisfaction and overall success.  Keeping this journal on a regular basis has led to my becoming a more positive person.

There is an additional use for my journal… When I am feeling particularly low on a given day, I look back at my journal entries for a reminder of my large and small blessings, as well as the ways in which I’ve succeeded in the various areas of my life.  This often provides the boost that I need to get out of victim mode and get back on track to being grateful and positive.

Stay tuned for two more posts about Louise Hay’s key principles.  Then we’ll move “full speed ahead” into the exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  The Healing Project is ON!