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Why You’re Not Using Gratitude Enough

You’ve heard the platitudes about being grateful and expressing gratitude, but you’re still not convinced that gratitude matters all that much. Chances are, you’re not using gratitude as much as you could.

I’m here to prove to you how gratitude changes everything.

An injury

This past fall, I walked part of the Camino de Santiago with my friend Heather Waring of London. It was a trip I’d planned and trained for over eighteen months. It just didn’t go as I had planned.

On the first day from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, we trekked in ninety-six-degree heat. There was little shade for our climb up and up and up. My feet swelled enough to create what we hikers call “hot spots,” areas that, if not treated, would likely turn into blisters. Thankfully, I had blister plasters, which I used to cover those spots. We trekked nearly nineteen miles that day up and over the Pyrenees.

The second day was just as hot and nearly as long a hike. Over the course of the day, those hot spots grew into bona fide blisters, with the one on my right heel proving to be the worst. About four miles from our destination, we encountered a steep descent on loose shale outcroppings. The footing proved treacherous and slow-going.

It was midway down the shale that I felt the blister on my right foot pop. Knowing if I took my shoe off, I’d never get it back on, I opted to keep walking (really, there was no other choice). On a scale of one-to-ten, the pain ratcheted up to a twelve. Each footstep was agony.

Changing my focus

Realizing I had a choice to focus on the pain, which only amplified it, or focus on gratitude, I opted for the latter. I repeated this mantra, “Thank you toes for holding me upright. Thank you feet for taking me all over the world. Thank you, legs. Thank you, knees. Thank you, lungs. Thank you, heart.” After a few rounds, I added, “Thank you blisters for giving me the information I need to be successful.”

That’s when I realized I felt no pain. None. Zero. Zilch. As soon this realization dawned on me, I immediately became aware again of the sharp, cutting pain in my heel.

“Wow!” I thought. “When I don’t focus on my wound, but instead thank my body for its miraculous work, I felt no pain.” You can imagine that I immediately returned to my mantra, which helped me descend pain-free into Zubiri, Spain. (I lost my heel that night and my feet swelled so badly that I lost four days on the trail.)

Science-based gratitude

Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for this switch from intense pain to painless, and it has to do with neurotransmitters. While focused on gratitude, my body released the feel-good chemical called endorphins, which overrode the pain-focused chemicals of serotonin and dopamine.

Talk about a transformative experience! Gratitude not only feels great, but it also changes the chemical composition in my body, so my sense of well-being and joy are heightened. I don’t know about you, but I’m leaning into this knowledge!

I’m curious about your experience with gratitude over physical or emotional pain. Comment below and share your insights.

If you’d like to further explore how pain can keep us stuck, check out my Journey Program, which is transforming lives!

4 Lessons I Relearned the Hard Way

These past few weeks, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, working long hours on really cool projects. Recently, I had four major coinciding deadlines, after which I had to refocus on existing projects to get caught up. I clearly had lessons to relearn!

What a wake-up call for me! My body felt exhausted. My mind spun. My heart palpitated. I breathed shallowly, living on adrenaline and caffeine, which is NOT a recipe for wellness and the opposite of the lifestyle I crave.

In fact, I felt as though I were reliving my corporate days of bouncing from meeting to meeting, cramming carbohydrates into my face as I ran to yet another conference call.

I’m grateful that it happened for me as it reminded me of what I want in my life:

Express gratitude

I’m incredibly thankful for the incredible opportunities that came my way to work with global changemakers and storytellers. I truly loved the diversity of projects and working with such interesting people who brought richness into my life. These are the kinds of visionaries I long to co-create with. More, please!

Set (and keep) boundaries

While I’ve come a long way in setting limits, sometimes I still decide they’re not essential to keep. The boundaries I most often violate are those related to self-care, business development, and personal projects. I’ve asked my mastermind peeps to hold me accountable to working until 8 p.m. only two nights a week and otherwise closing up shop at 5 p.m. And no more working weekends!

Say “no

I have serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome. This means I’ll often say, “yes” when I ought to say, “no,” especially if it means spending time with my friends. But overcommitting is a form of self-sabotage, so I permitted myself to say, “let me look at my calendar and get back to you.” I also check in with my gut. If there’s circular thinking about an event, that means I ought to not attend, and this is where tapping deeper into my intuition and understanding how my body gives me clues has been priceless.

Fill up

As a creative, I use my skills daily in service to others, and that means my creative well risks running dry. For years, I had a weekly artist’s date as prescribed by Julie Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. But the busier I got, the more often I tossed aside this time to recharge. On a subconscious level, I deemed my creative needs less important than those of my clients. And it showed in my work as it took longer for me to generate ideas and, when I did, doing so felt like drudgery. Again, this approach is misaligned with my values. I’ve recommitted myself to a half day’s creative retreat weekly.

An Invitation

As usual, the best lessons come from making poor choices or choosing alternatives that take us out of alignment. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on how I got myself in this pickle, what lessons I can learn, and decide how I want to be going forward.

Do any of these lessons resonate with you? How will you shift your attention to realign with your values?

You know you were born to make a difference in the world. You’ve done the work to heal old wounds and yet something (maybe more than one thing) keeps you from achieving all you know you can. Some of your beliefs—and stories—no longer serve you. Begin today to write a new ending to your story! Join my 12-week Journey Program.