These last few months have been a time to take stock of what is important and essential in our lives. As we look back and reflect on the people and events that have brought us here, it is essential to frame our experiences in a positive light. In this month’s issue of INSPIRE, Christine Wolf discusses how we can find beauty all around us and express gratitude for that beauty. We can also appreciate this year’s wonderful Thanksgiving Menu, brought to us by Breathe’s own Chef Mark. All that and more in this month’s edition of INSPIRE:
By Christine Wolf, CADC II, ICADC
In these uncertain times of the pandemic, opposing political views and a changing climate it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of it all. Currently, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are on the rise. There is also a spike in substance abuse, relapses and overdoses. However, we all have one coping skill we can access. It’s not always easy to find but it’s called practicing gratitude. Now some of you may read that and think “what do I have to be grateful for?” Many people have lost their jobs and may have difficulty seeing their loved ones. Allow me to explain.
In terms of science, scientists say that when we shift our thinking from negative to the positive, we release feel good hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. New neural pathways are created with this practice.
The Buddhists say that the definition of suffering is wanting things to be different than they actually are. Acceptance is key. No matter what your beliefs are this is a fundamental principle that we can all universally follow.
If you think about the word “present” it can also translate to the word “gift.” All that we have, with certainty. Is the present moment. If I can find what is right in the present moment, I will likely experience a gradual internal shift.
Let me give an example of gratitude in the present moment. I am a person in recovery. When I finally got sober, from drugs and alcohol, I can remember a specific moment that everything shifted for me. One morning I awoke at an early hour and made myself a cup of tea. Nothing fancy, just English breakfast tea. I was standing in my kitchen and looking at the sunshine outside my window. Suddenly I noticed that tears were falling down my cheeks. For so long I would wake up and feel hungover. Or have to call my dealer. Sometimes I was just going to bed when the sun was rising. Or I had the sickening feeling of wondering what I had done the night before that may have gone against my core values. Now as I stood in my kitchen, I felt a true sense of gratitude. I was free from those chains that bound me, and I could spend the day as I chose. What I have learned is that it truly is about the little things in life.
Look around you right now and see what you can feel grateful for. I bet you could feel gratitude for the fact that you are able to read these words. Many people do not have the luxury of being able to read. Of you can focus on your breathing. Notice the sensations as your chest rises and falls. You can feel gratitude for the gift of life itself. Notice the sounds of nature, pet your cat or dog, tell someone you love them. See how this feels internally.
I encourage everyone to try a simple practice of identifying 3 things they can feel grateful for the moment that they wake up and right before bed. Get those feel good hormones firing!
Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. There are many schools of thought people have when tackling thanksgiving dinner my personal mindset is make this as painless a possible perfect knife cuts are great but I try not to use my knife as much and the dishes tend to be more rustic. I build my entire dinner around a really good stock with turkey necks because I usually smoke my turkey.