Advice

How I Practice Gratitude

How I Practice Gratitude >> Life In Limbo

One of my favourite new habits has been taking gratitude more seriously. My word for 2015 is gracewhich has been proving more difficult to put into practice than abundance was, so I’m working on incorporating it into my life in more practical ways. One of the ways I want to embody grace is to “say grace” by actively appreciating and counting my blessings, and keeping a gratitude journal is really helping me with that goal.

How I Practice Gratitude >> Life In Limbo

I wanted to use a Moleskine daily planner to keep my journal, similar to Austin Kleon’s logbooks, but I couldn’t find one here in Korea so I just bought a few little notebooks at the local stationery store. They’re small – each page has 18 lines – so it’s portable and the size of the page isn’t intimidating to fill in at the end of each day.

How I Practice Gratitude >> Life In Limbo

That being said, some days are definitely harder than others. Some days I can fill in the lines in just a few minutes, and other days I need to take a little bit longer to reflect on the day. Sometimes I have all kinds of different little moments to write down, and other days I feel like a broken record, ie. “Grateful for not having snow and having time to relax and watch Gilmore Girls!” On those days I sometimes have to dig a little deeper and remember to write down things like “Everyone I love is healthy and happy” or “I’m safe and warm”. 

How I Practice Gratitude >> Life In Limbo

It’s a really enlightening exercise to look back on each day as well, and to realize what it is I’m actually grateful for at the end of each day. What are the things I actually love and appreciate. What is actually important? And when I look back I realize that for me, it’s always the little things. The comfort of a cup of tea. A text from my mom. A good conversation full of hysterical laughter. Being inspired. Doing work I love to do.

How I Practice Gratitude >> Life In Limbo

The front cover of these books says “bonjour” and I feel like that’s highly appropriate. Bonjour, directly translated, means “good day”. Practicing gratitude is, in a way, recognizing that every single day is a good, great, wonderful day filled with so many things to be happy about. It might sound a bit cheesy but when it comes down to it, the little moments and joys and days are all we have.

I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since early December and I haven’t missed a day so far. Filling in my journal in bed each night has become a really lovely part of each evening for me. I haven’t done too much reading of old entries, but I know that one day these journals are going to be such special collections of all the good things in my life.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? Do you like to practice gratitude in your own life? If so, what does your practice look like?

On Staying Present

Staying Present >> Life In Limbo

Living abroad for a year is an interesting lesson in presence. It asks you: can you be fully here now, without worrying about the future or wishing for something else? I don’t think that question is unique to living abroad – in fact I think it’s always being asked of all of us in one way or another – but you can hear it so much more loudly when you only have one year of living somewhere.

For me at least, it’s often a struggle. Let me be clear: I love my life here in Korea and am so grateful for the opportunities it’s given me. Yet at the same time, with two months to go, I feel like I’m ready for the next stage in my adventure. Striking that balance of appreciation and presence vs. planning and looking forward is hard. Staying present, both in everyday moments and in this broader chapter of my life, is hard.

Staying Present >> Life In Limbo

One of my favorite quotes is from Meryl Streep: “I want to feel my life while I’m in it”. And I do think that the magic happens in the moment, not after it’s passed. I think happiness happens now, not after some distant milestone in the future. And on a deeper level, I recognize that we only really have this moment, right now – though this idea is much easier to grasp conceptually than it is to apply it in the real world.

Still, I don’t want to sleepwalk through my life and I don’t want to be on autopilot. I want to be fully conscious, even if that means experiencing the hard things and the boring things and the tedious things. Because as Brené Brown says: “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

Staying Present >> Life In Limbo

And I think that being caught up and just going through the motions every day is a form of numbing those negative emotions of boredom and anxiety. It’s so, so easy to go through a day without having a special, positive experience to light it up. And of course, it can be incredibly hard to choose to look for those moments or be open to them. When I’m late, when I’m tired, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed, or when the children are screaming and running around the classroom, it’s easy to shut down and tune out and think only about me me me.

In fact, staying present and choosing is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever try to do. There’s a speech by David Foster Wallace that I come back to again and again in my life that talks all about this, and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Staying Present >> Life In Limbo

Some days I succeed at noticing other people and seeing lovely moments and finding the humour and actively appreciating. Other days go by in a haze of headphones and distraction and little-to-no eye contact. Some days I remember to make an effort and other days I am so caught up in my head that I totally forget to even try. Most days are a combination of both. It’s helpful to remind myself that I am always trying my best, whatever my best is on that given day. I think that working on staying present is a daily lifelong challenge, or as Laura says, “a mountain with no top”.

This week on the podcast, we’re talking all about presence: practices that help us stay in the moment, quotes that offer us perspective, why presence matters so much, how it can improve our relationships, and how it can make us happier. You can find the episode and the show notes here or subscribe on iTunes here.

Affirmations for Uncertain Days

Affirmations for Uncertain Days >> Life In Limbo

Earlier this week, I took to my journal and wrote what I really needed to read at the time. If I’m being honest, there will probably never be a time when I don’t need to write & read this. I titled it “affirmations for uncertain days” but considering the title of my blog and my life, it should really probably just be called “affirmations for everyday.” I’m sharing it here just in case maybe you need to read it too today.

[TL;DR: You’re doing a great job. It’s the truth.]

How I’m Giving More Meaningful Gifts This Holiday Season

How to Give More Meaningful Gifts This Holiday Season >> Life In Limbo

This is my first Christmas away from home, which has helped me to get a little creative with gift-giving. I can’t just go to the mall and then wrap something up – I have to think about shipping and timing more than I’ve ever had to before. It’s a good thing though, as I’ve had to think more intentionally about what I want to give people this holiday season and what is important to me. I realized that when I am faced with getting a great gift for someone, there are two major ideas I tend to turn to:

1. Give an experience:

Happiness research backs me up on this – spending money on experiences rather than things offers the most return on your dollar investment in terms of enjoyment. These days it’s getting harder to buy someone an interesting thing, especially since most people buy themselves the things they want or are trying to get rid of their extraneous belongings. Gifting an activity is a wonderful way to sidestep all those concerns while still showing your care and thought for the person you’re giving to.

Some experiences that are fun to give (and receive!): tickets to a concert, play, or sports game, vouchers for the spa or an interesting fitness class, a gift certificate for a cooking class or workshop, or a night out at a nice restaurant. If price is a concern, look for local events happening in your community through smaller theatres, restaurants and other small businesses and you’ll be more likely to find something in your price range.

2. Give a book: 

Books are the best of both worlds – they’re a physical object, yes, but they also offer the reader a whole experience, perspective, and set of new ideas. Books are my favourite type of thing to both give because you’re able to be so thoughtful and generous while spending as much or as little as you can afford. I believe that a book that meant a lot to someone is one of the more special presents you could ever receive. Plus, the gift-giver will usually write a personal message on the inside flap, and how great is it to grow a personalized library!?

Some books I would give this year:

Non-fiction: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, Thrive by Ariana Huffington, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Adulting by Kelly Brown Williams, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott.

Fiction: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Note: I have read and would personally recommend all of the above books. They are all among my favourites of the books that I read this year. You can see all my favourite books and recommendations right here.

***

This week on the podcast, Laura and I are discussing giving great gifts. We touch on the two themes I’ve just mentioned, but also talk a lot more about where to turn if the occasion calls for a special object (spoiler: it’s Etsy!). We also have a conversation about ways we can give back at this time of year to charities and organizations in our communities and worldwide. In my humble opinion, it’s a great episode and I’m proud to share it with you. Have a listen on our blog or by subscribing to the show on iTunes.

What are your favourite things to give as gifts? What will you be buying for those on your list this year? 

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