Up Your Game on Gratitude

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Happy Thanksgiving!  In the spirit of this week's holiday, I want to share some thoughts with you on gratitude - why it matters, and how you can easily up your gratitude game.  

Our brains are hardwired to repeat habitual patterns of thinking, and for many of us, that means a negativity bias.  Left unchecked, this becomes a detrimental mindset through which we experience the world. The data suggest it’s worth the effort to become more positive.  Research by positive emotions expert, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, demonstrates the benefits of a mind brimming with positive thoughts and emotions.  Her studies show that people with a higher ratio of positive to negative thoughts and emotions experience elevated levels of well-being, increased creativity, and better connections with others.  

One of the simplest ways to access more positive thinking and emotion is by developing a gratitude practice.  It's a practice because gratitude is created through thoughts, emotions and actions.  It starts with getting in the habit of frequently directing your thoughts and attention toward what you are grateful for in your world.  Doing so triggers cultivation of the emotion of gratitude.  For me, it shows up as a warm, softening sensation in my chest.  When I stay with that sensation, it makes me feel more open and receptive to the world.  Gratitude becomes an action when we share it with others.  This gives both the receiver and the sharer a boost in well-being.  
Here are 2 challenges to up your gratitude game:

Challenge 1: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, share 1 gratitude with someone each day for the next week.  With whom do you want to share your appreciation and thanks?  Who has supported and cared for you? Been kind or generous to you?  Gone out of their way for you?  Sincerely tell them how grateful you are and why.

Challenge 2: Start a Simple Gratitude Practice. What I'm about to share is perhaps the most researched activity in positive psychology that has repeatedly proven to increase human flourishing - The Gratitude Journal.  
If the word 'journal' makes you sweat, let me break it down for you.  For the rest of 2017, identify a place to capture your thoughts.  This can be a notebook, spreadsheet, phone app - whatever you prefer.  A few times a week or daily, take 5 minutes to reflect on and write down what you're grateful for or what went well that day.  Aim to do this at the same time each session to build the habit.  What you're grateful for can be big or small.  Maybe it was a fun lunch with a friend, a success you had at work, a relaxing yoga class, or a good night's sleep.  Maybe your focus is on relationships and loved ones.  When you play a role in making good things happen - note it.  For example, when you were having a stressful week, you prioritized attending a yoga class because you knew it would help you de-stress and focus better at work the next day.  

The upside of a Gratitude Journal goes beyond the few minutes when you're engaged in the activity.  By looking back, focusing on, and remembering the good stuff, we shift our thinking patterns toward recognizing and anchoring on positive thoughts.  We may actually become more optimistic and resilient, create more positive memories, and develop an orientation toward hunting the good stuff every day.  

Challenge accepted? 

Let me close by saying thank you to you, the friends of Point of Arrival. The past 2 years have been an amazing journey, and I'm so glad you've been along for the ride.  Thank you for your continued interest, curiosity and support.  I'm grateful to this community!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, Katrina

A Recipe for Cultivating Passion

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I had the privilege recently of attending a performance of The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste. Individually, the musicians had an immeasurable amount of prodigious talent, but collectively, the music was soulful and magical.  It was clear there was something ethereal happening; an energetic wave was born on that stage and washed over us all.  It got me wondering – what are the ingredients that generate this kind of passion and energy in our own lives?  And, what is the ripple effect into our communities when we tap it?
These questions were the basis of my graduate school dissertation and are ongoing for me.  Here’s what you need to know about how to cultivate more passion in work and life:

  • Nurture your talents and actively use your strengths – What are the talents, skills and abilities that come naturally to you, that are energizing and you cannot help but express in the world?How will you nurture them so they continue to grow? We often discover our passions by pursuing our strengths. When we connect with and use our strengths in service of our passions, we are more likely to engage in those activities, be resilient when we're challenged and generate better results.  
  • Focus, hard work and practice – Focus on what lights you up!  Work tirelessly and energetically toward improvement and mastery, knowing that a growth mindset, continued learning and practice will only make you better at what you love. 
  • Follow the path for its own sake – In terms of generating meaning and purpose in life, intrinsic rewards far outweigh the extrinsic ones.   Do what you’re passionate about because of the sheer joy it brings you, because time fades into the background, and because you cannot keep from doing it!  The activity is the reward. 
  • Architect a community of support – Who are the people who encourage and inspire you?  Who has complementary gifts, that when joined together, spark magic?  The whole is more than the sum of its parts.  Other people matter, and we need community for exponential impact and engagement.
  • It doesn’t need to pay the bills – While some of us will connect with passion through our paid work in the world, many of us will not, and that is perfectly okay!  What’s of the utmost importance is that we are cultivating our interests and passions in at least one domain of our lives.  Passion energy is a wellspring of positive emotions and meaning.  Do something ongoing that is energizing and brings you enjoyment and happiness. 

Watching the stage that evening, I witnessed passion coming alive in the foot tapping, bodies swaying, ear-to-ear smiling and harmonious sound.  A lifetime of nurturing talents, discipline and practice enabled that symphonic moment.  Those individual musicians, in ensemble, reverberated musical grandeur that touched the souls of everyone in that theater.  Thank goodness they showed up and shared it!  Here’s the bottom line: participate in and share your gifts with the world, for your own sake and the collective, we need them more than ever. 

In service and gratitude, Katrina