Giving Thanks After Thanksgiving…How an Attitude of Gratitude Will Change Your Life

The last of the mashed potatoes have been scraped from the Tupperware, the can shaped cranberry sauce somehow looks even more like a science experiment as the gelatinous blob splatters in the trash can. Every remnant of Thanksgiving is gone.

Are we still thankful?

For many, the spirit of giving, kindness, and joy lasts through December. Suddenly when the last string of tangled lights has been placed back in it’s designated box to collect dust into until next year, we seem to pack that sense of joy, gratefulness, and compassion along with it.

Why?

I thought about this as the stuffing, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole rumble in my stomach. It’s easy to be grateful when we’re reminded to be. Now, I don’t think this is because humans are innately selfish or ungrateful. I reflect on the countless sessions I’ve had with patients and many stressors, obstacles, traumas, and heartbreak fill our daily lives. Something I find myself echoing to many patients when they express shame, or even guilt about seeking treatment is that: we live hard lives. It can be argued that many of those stressors are ‘first world problems’ and they might be, but it doesn’t make them any less real when we experience them.

We live in a world where we’re expected to work harder, work longer hours and to be constantly connected to our jobs. We’re inundated with carefully curated photos that convince us that everyone but us lives the perfect, magical, happy-at-all-times lives. Heavily edited and filtered photos cover our screens, and tell us no one else has wrinkles, or cellulite, or blemishes. We see nothing but smiling picture perfect families that tell us we must be awful parents because our kids would never wear those disgusting saccharinely sweet matching pajama sets, let alone smile together in the same picture.

All of these stressors don’t disappear during the holidays, however at this time went tend to be more generous and patient, often we donate more of our time and money. Most people at some point during the holiday season will sit around the table with loved ones and share something we’re thankful for. The calendar turning to November doesn’t magically change the stressors and challenges we have, however one thing is different. We are essentially forced to reflect on what we have to be thankful for, whereas the rest of the year we don’t often have similar prompting.

Our perception and thoughts are powerful things. Our thoughts and beliefs are much like the old saying “birds of a feather flock together,” or “like attracts like.” The more negative or irrational thoughts we have, the more they seem to multiply, the same being true for positive thoughts.

One trick that I like to teach patients is how the change of a very simple word in our thinking can alter our entire perception. Changing “have” to “get” can completely change the context and our thinking of a situation.

Flipping, “I have to go to work today,” to “I get to go to work today” elicits a very different feeling. It makes me think of something my dad said years ago while he was working a job that came with some pretty severe stressors, “I might not like my work, but if I didn’t have a job, I’d sure want this one.”

During the holiday season we’re literally told to ‘give thanks’ or ‘be thankful’ hundreds of times. I find the happiest people are the ones who think of something to be grateful for the instant their feet hit the floor in the morning.

So give thanks this holiday season, and enjoy the festivities, but especially if you’re struggling with any kind of mental or emotional pain, I invite you to accept the challenge of starting every day, this holiday season and beyond, with something, no matter how small, that you can be grateful for.

You might find it’s not as hard to face the work day, your kids aren’t as exhausting, you may just feel better about yourself and life overall.

And with that… I’m thankful for you reading this 😉

Body Positivity: What it is, What it isn’t, and How to Get There

Over the last few years body positivity is something that has been getting a lot of attention. Supporters of this movement have the stance that this helps improve a person’s self esteem and overall wellbeing, and reducing judgment. However there is also the thought that this puts people in danger of ignoring larger health problems. So who’s right? Both, well, kind of.

When I explain body positivity to patients I describe it as loving and accepting yourself for where you are currently at. This doesn’t mean you get to put blinders on and ignore any health issues you are experiencing. It is rather that accepting of you where you are at. Feeling guilt, shame, or anger towards yourself certainly will not resolve these issues. Let’s take a step back and look at our body in a different way. Imagine your body as a car. Let’s say for whatever reason, you hate this car. If you have negative feelings towards it it probably won’t be a priority to take it to the car wash, you may not care that there’s trash strewn about, it might be easy to ignore that maintenance light. What happens? The car further deteriorates. Now imagine your dream car. Do you treat it the same way? Probably not. You probably will ensure maintenance is kept up, take it through a car wash, maybe even put premium fuel in it.

We cannot take care of something we don’t value, and our bodies are no exception to this.

Valuing ourselves means valuing our bodies and this is something we need to start prioritizing in childhood. I got started thinking about this earlier this month when I was getting a massage. Ok, so the best way I can describe this message was an hour of being pinched, tickled, and poked. It was awful. I hate to admit this, but it took me a lot longer than it should have to speak up. While laying on the table I remembered having the thought “Why am I not saying something? This is in no way enjoyable. You are paying for this come on.” I realized how ridiculous it was for me to be valuing the feelings of a person (who I was paying to perform a specific service) over being uncomfortable with something that was happening to my body. We need to start instilling this from a very young age; if your child does not want to hug a friend/relative/whoever he/she does not have to! When we force or pressure our kids into things like this it starts a thought process that your body is not as valuable as someone else’s feelings/wants/needs.

Traveling is one of my big passions, and I like to think it is something that helps me think on a more global level and fuels the fires of curiosity. So when thinking about all of this I began to wonder about different things that affect the perception of our body’s value. Thailand is one of the most (if not the most) infamous areas for sex tourism/sex trafficking/sex work, etc. I began to question how having this be such a prominent part of a culture affected people’s sense of self worth. How do people involved in these industries perceive and feel about themselves, how do others view the individuals working in this industry? I’m so excited to say this is something I will be fortunate enough to explore at the end of September, so check back to see what the experience is all about!

Tips for Adopting a Body Positive Mindset

1. Place a sign, post-it note, whatever on your mirror with a positive message for yourself. I love having people put something like “Hello, gorgeous” up. This is helpful for a few reasons. One being that it starts your day with a positive thought about yourself. It begins to make you feel comfortable with thinking/feeling/accepting nice things about yourself. The more that we practice this, and replace negative self talk with these thoughts the more second nature it becomes.
2. Focus on health and wellness not numbers. We can get so tied up in wanting to hit that magic number on the scale that sometimes we neglect what is more important, overall health. If you start treating your body like that brand new car I talked about earlier, guess what happens? We start putting higher quality fuel in, we’re more attentive to regular maintenance (exercise, time to de-stress, etc.) and we overall perform at a higher level.
3. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. An exercise I commonly have patients struggling with this do is body mapping. So either draw or list it out, head to toe write something that you like about each body part. If you cannot think of something you like about a particular body part write something that you can appreciate about it (eg. you may not like your stomach but you can appreciate that it houses organs that digest food to nourish you).

Just remember, you deserve the same love, kindness, and compassion you give to others, so be kind to yourself!