Thankful Journal #1

As we close out the year, I wanted to take some time to reflect on all that’s happened in 2017 and seal it with a moment of gratitude. A regular gratitude practice is the single most expert-recommended trick for short and long-term happiness, and it just so happens to be one of the easiest. 

The honest effects of gratitude and positivity! 

The honest effects of gratitude and positivity! 

Knowing this, I try to end each night playing the game, “Three Good Things.” In it, I mentally list three things I’m thankful for that day. It’s really simple, but so powerful. I usually fall asleep as I’m naming my third thing and drift off with a smile on my face. So not a bad deal. 

Thankful for the chance to explore Chicago over St. Patrick's Day weekend with some of my best buds. 

Thankful for the chance to explore Chicago over St. Patrick's Day weekend with some of my best buds. 

There are some days that I need more of a pick-me-up, so I’ll pull out my journal and physically list the things that bring me joy or that I'm feeling grateful for in that moment. I wanted to do this digitally to help give some insight into my regular practice and also help answer the question of, "How do I meaningfully reflect on 2017 in a way that brings me joy?" I've divided my life into six different facets to help narrow the focus a bit more:

Thankful for beautiful walks in the green, green nature.

Thankful for beautiful walks in the green, green nature.

In 2017, I was thankful for...

Socially

  • Best friends from college whom I feel so comfortable and at home with
  • A family who texts, calls, and leaves voicemails
  • The chance to be there for my friends when they were going through tough times (i.e. the chance to put the needs of others' before my own)
  • Regular game nights that allow me to connect with friends without the pressure of drinking 
Some of the aforementioned best friends, making my heart burst just a little at the seams. 

Some of the aforementioned best friends, making my heart burst just a little at the seams. 

Professionally

  • The chance to revive my passion for writing & creativity with this platform  
  • Being recognized and nurtured in my job  
  • All the challenges I faced at work this year that lead to personal growth. I learned so much about starting a new role, negotiating for my worth, interviewing, and make decisions about change. 
  • The chance to start the year with a clean slate and a new job! 
Just two of the amazing people I got to work with in 2017. 

Just two of the amazing people I got to work with in 2017. 

Romantically

  • All the romance of a new relationship :) Little things like an Easter basket filled with my favorite candy, a surprise visit on Valentine's Day, a romantic drive up the 1, a getaway weekend to Costanoa Lodge, all the bouquets of flowers "just because" ...I'll spare everyone, but the list goes on. 
  • Falling in love with a truly good person who cares for me in a way that I have always wanted
Best part of my 2017 was you :) 

Best part of my 2017 was you :) 

Spiritually

  • Moments that humble me, like times I've failed and times I needed to be called out on my attitude
  • Books that make me feel understand and less alone 
  • Disconnecting from tech and dropping into stillness 
  • Days that I got to spend all on my own, doing exactly what makes me happy
  • Discovering Rumi's poetry (one of my favorite poems here)
  • Simply, that I have hope for the future
Thankful for the chance to travel to Bali this year and stay in incredible locations like this one in Ubud. 

Thankful for the chance to travel to Bali this year and stay in incredible locations like this one in Ubud. 

Financially

  • A steady job that allowed me to live in my favorite city in my beautiful apartment
  • The ability to put a good chunk of money into retirement
  • Seeing some of my first investments in the stock market pay off
The aforementioned favorite city.

The aforementioned favorite city.

Physically

  • The opportunity to travel to Chicago, Bali, New York, Spain, and Portugal
  • A hometown I love to visit 
  • All the sweet puppy dogs who make me smile when I meet them
  • The many nights I got 8 hours of blissful, restful sleep 
  • Other creators who help me stay fit/sane without a gym membership by producing amazing free content. Some of my recent favorites: 

60 Minute Beginner Yoga Flow

60 Minute Intermediate Yoga Flow

KaylaItsinesFullBodyWorkout

I've struggled just a little to get this post out, because 2017 was not without its challenges for me. In fact, a lot of them seemed to culminate in the last few months. But when I lay out my life like this - with everything that I have to be thankful for - I realize it would be more inauthentic to not share. Hopefully by giving a peek into my regular practice, you’ll be inspired to start your own and experience an increased sense of joy and contentment with your already incredible life. 

If you're into this kind of thing and want to see more little happiness-boosting tips & tricks in your inbox every month, subscribe to the blog. I send regular roundups of the content that you might have missed on this platform and some of my favorite reads from around the web!

Using Mindfulness to Cope with Anxiety

There's a difference between sad days and anxious days. I've been known to have both, with quite a bit more anxiety as I get older. I suppose all the "stakes" in life get higher once you have a job and relationship and net worth. Mindfulness and a focus on relationships have made me better and better at handling these negative emotions when they inevitably come along.

My Theory on Anxiety

BaliFlower

It would make sense that anxiety is rooted in a biological purpose, somewhere connected to our fight or flight senses, but that modern society has fed it an unhealthy dose of steroids. For me, an anxious day is when my stomach is in knots, my heart pounds viscerally in my chest, and my face gets hot and tingly. I'm usually stuck with it for hours. 

I would love to tell you to meditate in these moments, but it's really hard for me to do when I'm anxious. There is a fear-quality to anxiety that kicks my fight or flight mode into high gear, and I'm just not advanced enough at meditation to break through that fear.

Of course, I try to breathe. Be here now, and not somewhere in the regretful past or scary future. From there, I try to utilize the below strategies. 

How To Cope

  1. Write it out: Grab a pen and paper, and just start writing. Acknowledge all of your feelings, and why they are there. Sit with them for a moment. Investigate each one, observing with curiosity and kindness. "What am I afraid of?" "Why would that be bad?" "How does this change things?" Journaling is such a powerful tool for self-interrogation. I often find it just as effective as talking to a therapist. 
  2. Indulge in the worst case scenario, dispassionately: Hopefully journaling has given you a little distance and clarity from your fears. Now, allow yourself to trace them all the way to the end, the worst possible scenario. Identify all possible outcomes, and how you might deal with each individually. What tangible, emotional, and mental resources do you have to draw on to recover? For instance, you family, your sense of self, and skill set will likely remain intact. I bet you have a greater ability for resilience than you think. 
  3. Favor the most likely outcome: What outcome makes the most sense, realistically? It's almost never the worst case scenario. Do yourself the logical favor of assessing the odds of the situation moving to worst possible case, and settling your mind on the most common outcome. 
  4. Keep in mind the average attention span: Remember that even if you fail in some way, this will fade from immediate memory in mere minutes, hours, or days. If the top people in politics can continue on after major scandals and celebrities can still get work after sex tapes, no one will remember that stupid thing you said in the meeting, etc.
  5. Talk to yourself: Either out loud or in your head, say the words "I love you and I forgive you, no matter what happens." Too often, our anxiety stems from a sense that the people around us will abandon us if events play out in a certain way. You can ultimately cut off this seemingly endless supply of anxiety by simply saying to yourself, "You will never not be loved by me. Together, we will get through anything." Corny, I know! But it is powerfully soothing.
  6. Reach out: To the people who your anxiety touches and to people it does not. For those involved, be genuine, vulnerable, and compassionate. If an apology is necessary, make it sincerely, and ask if it's possible to move on. I have almost always found that radical transparency is a fast-track to human connection. The same goes for someone uninvolved. Call your best friend, mom, or significant other for someone to bounce your anxiety off of. Usually, you'll get a much-needed reality check. It is often helpful to hear from someone outside the situation that you are not a bad or unlovable person, regardless of how this turns out. 
  7. Move on: Put on some music, take a shower, go for a walk, say YES to an invite. Push through the anxiety by reminding yourself that life is multi-faceted. If one aspect goes terribly wrong, your whole life does not go down with it. 

Chances are that things are not terribly wrong. It's often just that our society breeds the anxiety glitch in our brains. It makes sense; we're constantly under surveillance through digital means and it's really easy to preserve memories, for better or worse. For worse, it's really tough to escape our actions these days. More on that later, with tips on how to reduce chances of anxiety. But until then, do what you can to take care of yourself, mitigate this gut-wrenching feeling, and find your way back to a blue sky state of mind. 

xx

I'm still learning about this topic as I go through it myself. If you have any tips for managing anxiety, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!