A Return to Gratitude

Bourne Pond 3.JPGSometimes we need a reminder to return to the things we’ve done in the past to take care of ourselves emotionally now. This week I had planned to post a follow-up to Get Outside! following an amazing backpacking trip with my brother in the Lye Brook Wilderness of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest – we had a great time bonding over some of the things we love to do outdoors like hiking, fly-fishing, and just being out in nature. A few days following our return, though, my brother experienced an acute medical condition that proved challenging to treat and ultimately required surgery. While waiting anxiously for updates as he went through the process of diagnosis and treatment, I was reminded of the need to fall back on a perspective of gratitude when life throws something difficult and unexpected your way. Rather than attempting to push myself through writing something about our time outdoors, then, I decided that I would instead post about the benefits of gratitude. This decision to share openly about my own story and what I have been actively doing to manage it feels like a more authentic expression of myself.

On gratitude, a couple of years ago I accepted a challenge to track my gratitude daily for 7-10 days. Each day I listed three (3) things for which I was grateful that day. At first it felt a little awkward. I felt silly when my source of thankfulness came from something as trivial as, for example, getting to eat my favorite food. Other days my reflections felt more meaningful. For example, when I listed a family member’s words of encouragement as a source of gratitude, I felt supported and cared about by others. Ultimately, carrying the practice of gratitude forward over a full week helped me to establish the habit of looking for and noticing things to be grateful for, and has given me the confidence to always be able to find something positive in my life when things are tough.

Plenty of research on the benefits of gratitude can be found by doing a simple google search, including research on the psychological health benefits of gratitude by Dr. Robert A. Emmons Ph.D. But many people do not need convincing; the health benefits of gratitude have become so accepted that phone app developers have been working to make it more convenient and easily integrated into daily life.
If you feel the need for any more evidence or explanation, try the challenge for yourself!
Journal Prompt: List three things for which you are grateful each day for 7-10 days. As an alternative, try journaling about any of these 5 questions from Dr. Alice Boyes.
-Alex

Staycation = Self Care

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It’s mid-August. Summer is winding down, the kids are getting ready to go back to school, and we’re all left with some feelings of regret for how we could have spent our time. If you, like most of us, can’t jet off to Aruba right now but are pining for one last summer hurrah, may we suggest a staycation?

Self care means giving yourself a break from the monotony of everyday life once in awhile–when you change your routine you can change your perspective and gain newfound appreciation for the little things. Taking a day to explore somewhere nearby allows for leisure and relaxation without the time, money, or planning associated with traditional vacations. Staycations also mean an opportunity for spontaneity–opening yourself up to new and unexpected experiences.

Ask yourself this question: “If I was visiting [insert where you live here] on vacation, what would I do?”

When Alex and I visit a new place, we love to explore by visiting local markets, spending time outside, people-watching, and eating and drinking local fare. I’m going back to work tomorrow after six weeks off, so a staycation felt like the perfect way for us to connect and refresh before routine sets in.

Some tips for a fantastic staycation: 

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Breaux Vineyards in Hillsboro, VA.

Choose your location. We are fortunate to live near Virginia wine country and decided to check out a winery we had never been to before. Bonus: 35 minute drive through the countryside and very little planning involved.

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Baguette, brie, anchovy, purple basil, cherry tomato. Wash down with wine. Repeat.

Pack a picnic basket. We went to our local Farmer’s Market and grocery store to procure some of the deliciousness you see here. Not pictured: dark chocolate for dessert and coconut water for rehydration.

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Stimulate conversation through games or activities. This is our favorite picnic game and we always learn something new about each other. I learned that Alex cannot wait to be an old man and plans to continue fly fishing for the rest of his life.

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Relax, people-watch, and enjoy your surroundings. Remember when we talked about how staycations can lead to unexpected experiences? It just so happens that the winery we went to was also hosting a bluegrass festival! We loved sitting on our blanket listening to banjo-picking, bearded musicians and watching little kids run around in circles dancing to the sweet tunes.

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Be in the moment. When you’re on a real vacation, you’re not thinking about all of the things you have to do when you get home. Same rules apply for a staycation. We spent some time walking through the vineyards, feeling the warmth of the sun, and reconnecting with each other. Oh, and that mountain view? Pretty spectacular.

Journal Prompt: If you were visiting where you live on vacation, what would you do? 

xo,
Moira & Alex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Comfort Zone

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Wading through the bay and trying not to think about all of the creatures I might step on, I feel the paddle sliding through my sunscreen-greased, sweaty hand. I grip the paddle board and slowly hoist myself onto the board and up on my knees. I can’t tell if the board is shaking from my quivering limbs or from the tiny ripples of the water. Either way,  I have to stand up. It’s time.

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As someone who usually errs on the side of caution and has a genetic predisposition for anxiety, my “comfort zone” is a pretty big space. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into and plan for a variety of outcomes in a given scenario. When it comes to physically challenging activities in unknown places, I feel especially timid. In the past few months I have done some soul-searching about why I have these boundaries and small ways I could push them. Have you ever noticed how doing something really small to challenge your normal boundaries can actually translate into feeling more confident and capable (insert self care siren here)?

During the yearly beach vacation with my extended family, I happily observe my cousins and their kids dive through the crashing waves and paddle board along the shore of the bay. It’s not that I’m afraid to engage, per se, it’s just that I’m comfortable where I am, with my toes planted firmly in the sand. When my sister told me that she and my cousins were taking the kids paddle boarding, I told her to count me in.

As you can probably tell from the triumphant pose the mystery paddle boarder is striking in the picture above, I did it! I won’t go into all of the details about the before and during–the most important takeaway for me was the after. Even though most people would probably paddle board without a second thought (basically everyone I was with and their five year old kids), to me, the feat of actually standing up on the board and meandering my way through the ripples of the bay was like completing a marathon. Beyond the adrenaline and pride coursing through me, my family was SO proud of me. They know me and accept me for who I am, and wouldn’t have been disappointed or even said anything to me if I didn’t end up paddle boarding. But let me tell you, when I stood up and paddled away, I heard my cousin Peter yelling to my sister “MAEVE! She did it! Take a picture!” Paddling outside of my comfort zone not only fostered self-confidence, it reminded me of what an amazing support system I have.

I found these articles really interesting about one’s comfort zone and how there is a level of “optimal anxiety” which leads to all sorts of positive outcomes like increased productivity and creativity. There also is a point at which pushing oneself too far outside of the zone can be detrimental. Check them out and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

The science of breaking out of your comfort zone

10 ways to step outside of your comfort zone

Journal Prompt: How can you push yourself out of your comfort zone this week? Write about how you feel before and after this experience.

xo,

Moira

One of Those Days

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Do you ever have one of those days where you just feel “blah” and unmotivated? Those days where your normal tools don’t seem to be working? I’m having one of those days today and really don’t feel like journaling. Or mediating. Or exercising. Or phoning a friend. Even gazing at my fresh vase of sunflowers as I write this isn’t improving my mood.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes self care means giving yourself a day off. Not making yourself feel guilty for not unloading the dishwasher. Taking a nap on top of the clean laundry. Eating a frozen meal even though you have fresh vegetables that need to be used up. Looking up wayyy too many Game of Thrones memes. Plopping the kid in front of the TV for an extra 30 minutes.

So, instead of finishing my blog post about getting outside of your comfort zone (hopefully to come later this week), I’m going to watch Grantchester on Amazon Prime and look at pictures on my favorite Instagram account, foster_kittens.

Journal Prompt: What is one way you can give yourself a break today? 

xo,

Moira