Practice Gratitude Every Day

Every year we dedicate one day to giving thanks.  Why stop there?!  We can enhance our well-being every single day by cultivating and nurturing an attitude of gratitude.

1. Write it down. When we start acknowledging positive aspects of our daily lives, we tend to move away from the easy habit of dwelling on the negatives.  To start, try writing down 5 things that you feel grateful for every single day.  Not only will you build an abundance of positive memories but you will see over time how your attitude changes! Science has found that gratitude can significantly increase happiness and protect us from stress, negativity, anxiety, and depression. 

2. Smile. Showing compassion is possible in a lot of ways, but a smile is the best place to start.  Simply smiling can disarm negative emotions we feel within or dissolve the negative energy projected by others.  Giving your time to someone else can boost your own sense of well-being and a smile is the first step to connecting with others.  Research shows that even a fake smile makes us feel better, reduces stress, and uplifts others.  

3. Play more!  Daily routines can drain the fun and spontaneity out of our lives.  When life feels like a daily grind, we lose sight of the little things that matter and need to make time for play. Idle play and games can boost creativity, help us think outside the box, improve our health, and bring us back to the present moment.  Play with your kids or play games with friends. Try to have a good laugh and find the joy that is present in every day.

4. Stop chasing happiness. The more value we place on happiness the more likely we are to fixate and ruminate when things do not go as planned.  Research has revealed that happiness is driven by the frequency of positive emotions, not the intensity of how happy we feel.  Aiming for positive emotions can lead to disappointment, while aiming for contentment allows us to accept our emotions as we experience them.  Sometimes it is important to sit with negative feelings so we can practice being gentle with ourselves.  Let our feelings flow naturally, and we may find gratitude in the full spectrum of emotions we experience.

5. Body Scan. Meditation is an important component to happiness, and finding awareness in our body can help us feel grateful.  It is so easy to walk around in life just reacting to everything, getting stuck in patterns and repeating dramas.  Cultivating awareness and spaciousness in our minds promotes a calmer sense of self.  Spending just a few minutes every day to notice our own physicality brings us closer to our own center.  This is a time to thoughtlessly feel tension, breathing patterns, heart beat, and digestion.  Sitting up straight or lying down we simply close our eyes and focus our attention on every region of our bodies until we have experienced the whole.  We can find gratitude in the healing we have achieved in certain areas or the steady breath that gives us life. 


Mindful Holiday Eating

The holiday season is upon us! A common tradition to celebrate includes feasting on rich foods and decadent sweets.  What a perfect opportunity to really enjoy this abundance!

Here is a quick reference for using mindfulness to make your holiday dinner a unique experience and not just a delicious meal.  

mindful eating

Mindful Eating Exercise

1. gratitude.  Look at everything in front of you.  Acknowledge your abundance. (Where did it come from? How long did it take to prepare?  Who prepared this meal? How much money was spent to share such a bountiful meal?) Take a moment to be truly and genuinely grateful for all of it.

2. less is more.  Do not fill your plate.  If you take heaping portions you may be eating to get full, when you really only need to eat until you no longer feel hungry.  Try the different foods and get more of those things you really like if you are still hungry.

3. slow down.  Spend more time chewing, smelling, tasting, and talking with those around you.  Get the most out of this special feast by making it last.

4. breathe.  It may sound silly to add this step, but it is pretty common to get so caught up in the  excitement of the holiday that you forget to really take those deep, satisfying breaths.  Take a few moments during the meal to take a nice slow deep belly breath with a slow peaceful exhalation.  Your digestion will be better and your body will be more relaxed.

5.  savor.  How does it smell? Is that a hint of cinnamon? When is the last time you enjoyed this food? Enjoy the taste, smell, and texture for as long as possible.  

Happy Holidays!


The Emotional Life of Your Brain: Dr. Richard Davidson in Milwaukee

Dr. Richard Davidson:

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them


the emotional life of your brain book

On December 2, 2014, Dr. Richard Davidson spoke in Milwaukee at the Congregation Sinai to explain the work he does at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds located at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  Dr. Davidson is a world-renowned neuroscientist who wrote the book, "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" and has famously been challenged by the Dalai Lama to scientifically study meditation.  He has since been named one of Time magazine's most influential people in the world!  Mke MindBody Wellness attended and have this important message to share:


"Why is it that people respond so differently to adversity?"  

 In 1992, Dr. Davidson was requested by the Dalai Llama to meet.  At this meeting, the Dalai Llama asked why if we can study anxiety, depression, and fear can we not study happiness, kindness, and compassion? At this meeting, Dr. Davidson was asked to do serious neurological research of meditation.  The study of kindness and compassion could then be able to show the world the science of wellbeing.    


The four themes that relate to this research include:

Neuroplasticity: How the brain changes in response to experiences. It has been shown with research that we can intentionally shape the mind.  It used to be believed that the brain stops growing- but this is FALSE! Our brains are continuously developing with new cells and it has been shown that stress will impair this brain cell growth!


Epigenetics: The science of how genes are regulated by external exposure (emotions, environment, etc.).  The effect of these external factors influences the extent at which genes present.  Having genes is not a guarantee that they will express and lifestyle and external exposures are a heavy influence on which genes will present or remain dormant. 


Massive bi-directional pathways in the brain: A brain is a fully integrated system and these pathways show how the brain mind and body influence one another. Example: Dr. Davidson took part in a study that tested the efficacy of the flu shot for immunity compared to meditation.  After several weeks of meditation, half of the group was given a flu shot and the other was not.  At the end of the trial, the group who did not receive the flu shot had higher rates of immunity with continued meditation.


Innate basic goodness:  Admittedly not an easy trait to study, but none-the-less an important feature in our human brains.  With studies showing infants preferring generous and compassionate behavior to selfishness, our basic emotion from the start is altruism. 


The goal of all of this research is to show that it is possible to become more familiar with the fundamental nature of our mind.  Wellbeing is a skill that can be improved with practice.  The most important thing to remember from all of this is that recognizing awareness takes practice and it is possible to pay better attention to your sense of wellbeing and improve it with meditation and mindfulness practices.

Integrative Health Coach Kerri Weishoff with Dr. Richard Davidson

Integrative Health Coach Kerri Weishoff with Dr. Richard Davidson

We are grateful to Dr. Davidson for his visit and his dedication to making our world a better place! 


For more information about Dr. Davidson and to buy his book: