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Day 8: 10 Days of Self-Care (Holiday Countdown)

Hello there. It's so nice to see you here on day 8! I hope today finds you well in mind, body and spirit, looking forward now that winter solstice has passed and we begin to move towards a new season (even though it doesn't feel like it yet). Just as I started the previous days blog, I now invite you to take a moment to settle into a comfortable seated position, wherever suits your body right now. Find a comfortable connection through your seat to the floor or the chair and then move your attention to your spine. Imagine a string attached to the crown of your head and gently pull it upward. Feel your spine elongate. Settle your shoulders down away from your ears and bring your attention to your breath. Without trying to change it, just tune in and listen. After several rounds of regular breathing (one round = one full inhale and one full exhale), begin to breathe in deeply through your nose and sigh it out through your mouth. Imagine any tension you are holding is sighing out with your breath. Repeat three to five times before returning to your regular breathing rhythm. If you would like to stay with your breath a little longer, if it's feeling like exactly what you need, please do. Alternate rounds of regular breathing with five repetitions of sighing out as long as it feels good and know that taking time to just breathe is a wonderful act of self-care in and of itself, so bravo!

Day 8 Suggestion: Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Yesterday was about acknowledging and then letting go of the stresses and issues surrounding this holiday that are essentially out of our control. Now that you've made space by letting some of that stagnant or potentially negative energy go, it's time to fill up with the good stuff; today is about looking around and seeing what we have to be grateful for.

Move back into the seated position you were in during the breathing exercise that opened this blog (you may still be in it). Check in with your spine and your shoulders to make sure you are as long and as beautifully aligned as your body can be and reconnect with your breathing. If it helps you focus you can place your hands on your belly below your navel and concentrate on moving your inhale deep into the belly, feeling it press against your hands. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale deeply through your nose, not forcing the air in or out, not holding your breath in any way. We are aiming to find a deep, smooth breath with a bit of ease to it, flowing like silk. If you feel comfortable, allow your eyes to softly close or settle your gaze on a single point just in front of you around the level of your seat. Allow a soft smile to settle on your face. As you listen to the rhythm of your breath moving smoothly in and out, think of one thing you are grateful for. There's no need to pick anything huge, or filter out "the best thing," just let something move into your mind and hold it there. Stay with your smooth breath and consider why you are grateful for whatever it is that came to you. Sit quietly with this recognition for several rounds of breathing and allow yourself to enjoy this feeling. Move back into your normal rhythm of breathing and slowly blink your eyes open, or move your gaze away from the single point you were focused on.

Repeat this exercise whenever you need a boost, whenever life feels challenging. Try beginning your day this way. Try falling asleep with gratitude in your mind at night. Find one thing every day to feel grateful for. Remember this isn't about searching for one big thing. You don't need to brainstorm for life-altering moments here; this is about learning to see what you have in your life right now that you might not even be aware of. You might be grateful for a really good cup of coffee or a favorite pair of socks. You might be grateful for a person, a home, a pet... Often we move through our days on auto-pilot. Taking time to stop and look for things we feel grateful for helps us recognize things we take for granted and see our lives in a new, more positive light.

On a more personal note, I will say this exercise has helped me a lot in my own life. During a very dark time I started a gratitude journal with the intention of finding one thing each day to be grateful for. In the beginning it was tough. I think one of my first entries was to feel gratitude for a glass of water on my nightstand because I was too worn down to get out of bed and get one myself. It seems like such a small thing, but it led down a road towards more positive thinking. If I was grateful for the glass, then I was grateful for the water, for access to clean water. For my husband that thoughtfully placed it there for me. For my dog for not drinking it (lol). Within the first month of starting my journal, I realized I was beginning each day with the mindset of, "what can I find today to be grateful for?" It was a profound shift into a positive mindset and since that time I have included gratitude as a foundational part of my mental health and self-care toolkit.

Supplemental Suggestion: Make it Tangible

There are many different ways to add gratitude into your daily life. I journal it because I need to see it written down. It helps me hold onto it. During times when I have really struggled, words haven't come easily so I have used images instead. You can have a written journal, you can draw it, you can have a photographic one too. Sometimes having something tangible to hold onto is a part of what makes it a powerful tool. Do what works for you.

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