Transform your Work Life with Gratitude

John Kralik didn’t think he had much to be grateful for. He was miserable, broke, overweight and living in a run-down apartment. While hiking one new year’s day he made a resolution to write a thank you note every day for that year, and that simple habit changed his life. Writing the notes gave him a positive focus that made him realise just how much he had in his life to be grateful for, and this habit which extended way beyond a year, led to him writing, A simple Act of Gratitude.

Since 2003 there has been an explosion of research carried out on gratitude and the ability it has to transform lives, and while being grateful is a great habit, the time when we need to practise it the most is when our life is not all that we want it to be.

Prior to starting Hart Life Coaching I felt so demoralised. I had lost money, prestige and confidence when I was reduced to working as a bookkeeper for a pitiful hourly rate. In my former life I had earned thousands for a one hour talk, had a regular spot on TV and my opinion was sought after. Then I was nobody reduced to working for $17 an hour. My fall from grace turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me because it motivated me to shift my focus off what was wrong and onto being kind and grateful for what I had.

Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation. Appreciation, kindness, caring, compassion are all emotions that lift the electromagnetic field that our hearts produce which in turn draws good things to us. I had only been focusing on gratitude and being kind to others for a few weeks when, out of the blue, a stranger rang and asked me to ghost write a book. That one opportunity led to other opportunities and within months I was able to leave bookkeeping behind and do work that I love again.

Research has confirmed that gratitude at work:

Boosts pro-social behaviour
Promotes deeper relationships
Fosters kindness and new friendships
Strengthens existing friendships
Increases productivity

If you aren’t in love with your work, if you want to start your own business but haven’t been able to yet, focus your attention on gratitude. Gratitude is not about you, it’s about other people. Simple acts of kindness and gratitude leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. When I was stuck in jobs I didn’t really care for I looked for ways to make other people happy. I would pay the bridge toll for the person behind me, I bought flowers for the receptionist, I told people how much I appreciated them. I started giving thanks in advance for the things I wanted as if I already had them.

When we get stressed, we sometimes feel as if we are moving backwards, so by bringing some heart energy into our daily interactions we become refreshed, happier and we feel good about ourselves. And the bonus is that we make other people feel good as well.

Being grateful at work isn’t about adding another thing to your ‘to do’ list. It’s about developing an attitude that looks for the good first, and it’s always a good idea to support the development of gratitude with a habit. Every time I drive past the beautiful bay near my home, I give thanks for the privilege of living here. I have two cats that love to sit on my lap, and I give thanks every time I stroke them for the love they give me. I give thanks before I go to sleep each night. And I give thanks for all the wonderful people who choose to train with my company every time I walk into my office.

David Steindl-Ras,a Catholic Benedictine monk and author said, “If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.”

 

Understanding Your Why

When I was younger my big dream was to own a home of my own.  I never had any money left over to put towards saving for a home. I wasn’t a high income earner and I already worked more than one job, so I couldn’t take on extra work. I knew the only way I was going to make enough money and have more freedom was to go into business for myself, but I didn’t know the first thing about business, or know anyone in business to ask, but what I had was a good brain and a compelling reason. More than anything in this world I wanted to give my children a great life and to be available for school functions and holidays. Having a compelling reason to create my dream gave me the motivation to look for different ways to attain my goals, and to persist when things didn’t go the way I planned.

In the early 1900s Samuel Pierpont Langley set out to be the first man to fly an airplane. He was highly educated and ambitious and had friends in high places who funded his efforts, so he was able to use only the best materials. He also had a dream team of talent to help him achieve his goal.

Wilbur and Orville Wright’s passion for aeronautics and flying started when their father brought home a model helicopter made of cork, bamboo and paper that was powered by a rubber band. When they started working on their own flying machine they didn’t have any money or funding, and they didn’t have any college degrees. They had people helping them but no-one on their team had any advanced training. Yet, despite the odds against them the Wright Brothers beat Samuel Pierpont Langley to become the first people to fly an airplane. Why?

Langley had a goal, the Wright Brothers had a dream. Goals can be great, but they don’t motivate us as much as a dreams do. Dreams come from our heart and soul, they inspire us to be more, do more. Understanding your why is one of the most important discoveries you can make.

Why do You Want it?

The most important question you can ask yourself is, “Why do I want it?”

I ask this question in coaching often and one of the answers I often hear is, “I want to make a difference”.

But why do you want to make a difference?

We rarely get the real answer with just one question. If you asked that question followed by, “And what else?”, and you wrote your answers down each time you would get closer to what your deepest motivation is.

If you want a goal because your mind worked out that this is the best way for you to achieve your dreams, then it won’t motivate you enough. Most people give up easily when they don’t see results but people with a compelling ‘why’ often persist even when the odds are against them.

As my children grew and became independent, I needed a new ‘why’. If you had asked me all those years ago why I pushed myself to overcome my fear of public speaking and putting myself out there with my opinion, I most likely would have said, “I want to help people”. And that would be true, because it’s what I’ve always wanted, but I could have volunteered, or performed acts of kindness without pushing myself through my fears. My real motivation was that I wanted to be heard and I love to share. I didn’t feel heard growing up, I felt my opinions were always rubbished and that may have just been the way I perceived things back then, but it was a powerful motivator for me.

Curiosity is one of my gifts. Learning, researching, exploring, understanding and then sharing is what makes me feel alive. It keeps me young. My why nowadays is still learning and sharing and that’s because this make me happier than anything else I do, it’s that simple.

Imagine someone asking you why they should do business with you, why they should support you, or why they should employ you. When you know your why, you inspire confidence. People trust you. When we have a compelling why, we wake up each day eager to start again. We find the time. We overcome our fears.

When you know your why, create a daily routine that supports you, and take steps at least five days a week to turn your dream into reality, you can forget how it will manifest. The how is less important than the why, as it often takes care of itself.

 

 

The Healing Powers of Forest Bathing

A few months ago I had a strong feeling to write a course on mindfulness, which I resisted. I am a big fan of mindfulness and I practised it occasionally but I wasn’t someone who made it part of my daily life. I kind of liked the buzz I got from multi-tasking and juggling numerous projects at once and I didn’t want to give that up. But the more I resisted the stronger the urge became until I decided to follow my inner voice and it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Whenever I write a course I do every exercise and make what I’m writing about a part of my daily life, so I can be sure it works before recommending it to others, and I must admit I didn’t expect to find mindfulness such a fascinating subject. Before long I started noticing a change within myself as I implemented mindfulness practices into my daily life.

At the end of June, when I was half way through writing the course,  I went on a month long trip to Europe and while In England I did some research on the topic and discovered for myself the power of forest bathing. Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is the practice of walking mindfully amongst trees and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate the physical and emotional benefits of this.

When we walk amongst trees we are in an oxygen rich environment. We are exposed to sights and sounds that generally relax us but even more important is our exposure to phytoncides (wood essential oils). Phytoncides significantly increase our NK cells which are known to fight cancer[1]. In a nutshell walking in the forest has some major health benefits the full extent of which is, as yet, unknown.

What does appear to be the case is that regular forest bathing can have long lasting effects. Weekly sessions of around 20 minutes or more are recommended. If you don’t have an area of bush that is easily accessible go to your local park, where there are trees. The benefits gained from just one session last for a week.

Forest therapy[2] has been proven to:

  • Improve the immune system
  • Increase relaxation due to increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce blood pressure if it is high and raise it if is low
  • Increase feelings of wellbeing
  • Decrease cardiovascular illnesses[3]
  • Help with respiratory system issues such as allergies[4]

In the US particularly, some doctors are recommending this practice to their patients. Dr Nooshin Razani[5], a paediatric infectious diseases doctor at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland California, conducts a program call Shine, where once a month she leads of group of up to 50 people through a lush forest of redwoods. Her patients range in age from 8 months to 18. Dr Razani published findings that park visits, no matter where they were, or whether they were led by a guide or not led to a decrease in stress.

Suzanne Simard, a researcher at the University of British Columbia also quotes a hospital in Atlanta that formally offers forest therapy to patients with cancer. Another doctor in Iowa, Dr Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmill, an obstetrician-gynaecologist became a certified forest guide and leads groups.

Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki[6], who is a researcher and director of Chiba University’s Centre for Environment, Health and Field Sciences and author of Shinrin-yoku, says that our genes cannot change in just a few hundred years and the loss of trees and our natural environment is a major contributor to modern day stress.

Dr Miyazaki also says that stress today is not just triggered by dangerous situations but emotional ones as well such as a crowded commuter train, a driver who takes the parking space you wanted, or an employer who is unhappy with your work. We have more triggers for the stress response today than ever before and when our bodies remain in a state of hyper-arousal for too long illness occurs.

Mindfulness is the way to change our state and ultimately our entire lives, whether we practice being mindful as a daily exercise, or we make walking amongst trees something we do on a regular basis.

I am now offering online courses in Certificate in Mindfulness and a Certified Mindfulness Teacher certification.

 

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

[2] Shinrin-yoku, Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Octopus Publishing, Great Britain, 2018

[3] Your guide to forest bathing, M Amos Clifford, Conari Press, Massachussets, 2018

[4] Your guide to forest bathing, M Amos Clifford, Conari Press, Massachussets, 2018

[5] https://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other

[6] Shinrin-yoku, Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Octopus Publishing, Great Britain, 2018