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17 January 2020
Tools for the Year Ahead: Cultivating Gratitude
“Don’t forget to remember what you’re not worrying about anymore!”
We believe that Finding Your Balance encompasses more than simply choosing to maintain a healthy diet and make time for a great workout. Meditation, contentment and emotional wellbeing all have their part to play in helping you feel and be your best self.

In this series, we ask leading wellness experts Michael James Wong, a meditation and yoga guru, and Shahroo Izadi, a behavioural change specialist, to share their insights and helpful tips on a range of topics, ensuring you're as well equipped as can be to build a life that you love. 

First stop: cultivating gratitude. 

Michael James Wong - Founder of Just Breathe

"It’s essential that we begin to realise and notice when things are good, when they’re good. Not after, not before, but during."

It’s easy at this time of year to look back and list all the things we’re grateful for from the past 12 months, and if you haven’t done it already, it’s a meaningful and worthwhile experience to expand on. But looking forward to the future, I’d like to offer something new for the new year, which is learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, to ourselves, each other and the world around us. All too often in life we wait till a moment has past to appreciate what we experienced. We wait till we get home, till the show is over, till we’ve left the party before we notice just how good things are. I say this often, it’s essential that we begin to realise and notice when things are good, when they’re good. Not after, not before, but during.

So, this year, what if instead of looking back, we look forward and proactively create a shift in how we see and appreciate everything we do so that we can create a moment of appreciation during every experience in our day. We have so many moments that can on one hand, be taken for granted, or in the other, be greeted with gratitude, and the only difference is our willingness to be present with a positive outlook and a proactive sense of gratefulness. By doing so, we’ll always our time and experiences as something to appreciate, no matter what it is.

Remember being grateful doesn’t have to be grand, the practice, or the attitude of gratitude is finding something to appreciate in every occasion, big or small. Whether it’s as simple as someone opening a door for you, or offering to pour you a tea, gratitude is how we receive and perceive the actions and interactions in our lives.

So, as you take your new outlook into the world, here are a few things to consider:
  • Can you notice that it’s good, when it’s good
  • Enter every experience with appreciation instead of expectation
  • Every new experience is an opportunity to positively connect with someone else
  • Appreciate the everyday things as amazing
  • There’s no such thing as too much gratitude, and don’t be afraid to say it out loud

About Michael

Recognised around the world as a leading voice in the global movement for modern mindfulness and a man on a mission to turn the volume down and bring a quieter conversation into the real world. A community activist, author, yoga teacher, and the founder of Just Breathe and Boys of Yoga, you can find more about him on his website and Instagram.

Find Michael on the Main Stage, teaching in the Yoga FLOW and leading sessions in the Mediation Dome studio at Balance Festival 2020.

Image: @yogaandphoto

Shahroo Izado - Behavioural Change Specialist

“Don’t forget to remember what you’re not worrying about anymore!”

In my work, I often observe patterns in the stages people go through when they come to me wanting to change unwanted habits. I’ve learned that when it comes to sustaining changes in the long-term, gratitude for what’s been left behind can play a big role. 

Usually, clients start by telling my why they want to change their lives. They acknowledge how much the negatives have been outweighing the positives and the fact that they’ve dedicated time and money to address elements of their behaviour that bother them and impact their quality of life. 

Once they have more clarity on where they want to get to and what’s been holding them back, they implement practical plans; before long they start achieving short-term goals, and then long-term ones. Each time they surprise themselves with their own capacity and manage to do things they didn’t believe they could, it’s novel and exciting. They can feel the relief of not having specific worries be part of their day-to-day lives.

Over time, however, what was previously an achievement simply becomes their new normal. They stop applauding themselves, and often forget quite how difficult things had got in all those tiny and very personal ways, when they wanted nothing more than to have the life that they now call normal. Instead, they’ve created new goals and new worries. They forget that there was a time when they would have done anything to get rid of those that now no longer even feature in their everyday lives.

We will all keep putting goals in front of ourselves throughout our lives – and that’s great. Identifying many different destinations we want to reach and seeing ourselves reach them is a wonderful experience. That said, it’s important to stop at the destination and take stock; to realise it’s been reached and to acknowledge not only what we feel grateful for having gained in our lives, but also what we feel grateful for having lost, and therefore no longer spend time, energy or money worrying about. 

Think of the last time you made a big change in your personal or professional life – anything you put into place or achieved in order to make life better for yourself in any way at all. Then, answer these questions:
  • What was it that made me want to do this?
  • What was I trying to change? 
  • What didn’t I like about how things were at the time?
  • What were my main concerns at the time?
  • What feelings and/or circumstances were I trying to make better by making the change?
  • How much of my time and energy was being taken up by worrying about how and when I would make this change? 
  • What doubts did I have about what I’d be able to achieve? 

Take a moment to look at your responses. Reflect on how different your worries were and how many of things you no longer worry about and allow yourself a moment of gratitude.

You’re doing great!
About Shahroo

Shahroo Izadi is a Behavioural Change Specialist, speaker, coach and author of The Kindness Method, which has been translated into five languages. Shahroo’s second book The Last Diet is available now.

Her therapeutic approach is influenced by her experience of working in frontline addiction treatment. During this time, Shahroo developed a knowledge of how to elicit self-led change, even in those who are most resistant to it. Find out more about her work on her website and follow her on Instagram

You can find Shahroo speaking in The LAB at Balance Festival 2020.

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