Tag Archives: Gratitude

Question Of The Month – Coping

For quite some time now, adult colouring books have been promoted as the ultimate way to find peace within yourself and to leave your thoughts and worries behind. What do you do to clear your mind?

Stephanie

What I do to clear my mind and find inner balance varies based on how flustered my mind is. My go-to activity to clear my mind is to write in my journal – it has an almost 100% success rate. Writing about how I’m feeling, how I felt in a certain situation, how I made someone else feel, and ways I can work towards feeling better always helps. I’ve even taken a page out of Oprah’s book – I keep a Gratitude Journal. Every now and then, I’ll open this journal and write 3-5 things that I’m grateful for that day. Family, friends, good food, a warm bed – whatever makes my heart full and reminds me about how lucky I am, even when things seem to be at their worst.

Dana

I actually have yet to try the adult colour book. I have always hated “colouring” for some reason. I have always been in to drawing, but not filling in the lines with colours. I used to make comic books and ask my sister to colour them in for me when we were younger. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be buying an adult colouring book to relax anytime soon!

I like to think I have a pretty healthy way of dealing with stresses, and I think I cope quite well with things. Some things better than others, of course. The biggest thing I have learned so far is the importance of breathing during stressful times. It’s the simplest, yet can be the hardest. I remember when I was younger, anytime I would get upset and cry I would start to hyperventilate because I couldn’t control my breathing and I would just lose it. Everyone would tell me, “Just breathe, just breathe!” and I would think: “I’M TRYING!!” Now that I’m older, I’ve learned to control and focus on my breaths when I am going through something unpleasant. I am someone who gets worked up very easy, and am quite sensitive, so this is a coping technique I use regularly.

I think I really started to understand the importance of breathing from taking a few hot yoga classes. I took the VERY hot classes, Bikram yoga, and I had never done any yoga before in my life. I’m not very athletic, flexible, or anything, so it was a big challenge for me to do something like this. I ended up loving it! Yoga teaches you how to focus on your body, and control your breathing and mind to be in a calm state. I always left the classes feeling like the weight had been lifted off my shoulders (and I was also very, very sweaty). I can remember being in some very stressful and tense situations, and hearing that voice in my head go “inhale, and exhale… slowlyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.” Do you ever have those moments when something has really upset you, and you are trying not to cry? And then someone comes up and asks you if you are alright and it’s like a trigger to start crying? But you don’t want to cry in a public place? When that happens to me, I always deeply inhale and exhale and count my breaths to help diffuse the situation and keep my composure.

I also use the app “Calm” on my phone, which helps take you through different types of meditation. I only have the free version, so there aren’t as many options, but I love using it to tap out for 5 minutes and focus on breathing and my body. I would highly suggest trying this app out; it’s very convenient to turn off the lights in your office for 5 minutes and meditate. My coworker told me about it and it’s been spreading like wildfire. I also really enjoy laying down somewhere comfy, and putting on a few of my favourite relaxing songs. I consider it another form of meditating and losing yourself to the music. It’s easy to listen to the lyrics and the melodies and forget about your troubles.

Sometimes though, those things aren’t enough. I still let myself cry when I need to cry. I believe crying is a coping mechanism, and although it may not be the prettiest thing, it always feels so much better to let out all that anxiety and negativity through your tears. Sometimes you just need to let it all out and cry when you are going through something hard. I would rather cry than keep all my feelings inside and let it weigh me down. After a good cry, I always feel sleepy – so usually I go to bed and have a great sleep because I’ve let it all go. I wake up feeling better. A good cry can sometimes be the best cure.

Blogger Talk – Gratitude and Leadership

Each month, we give you the opportunity to get to know your bloggers a little bit better. During this month of Thanksgiving and of celebrating women in leadership here at the YW, our bloggers Crystal and Allison share some of the things and people they are grateful for in their lives.

Crystal Crystal Carswell

What female in a leadership role inspires you, and why?

Elisabeth Zimmermann, the Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region. I see inspiration in Elisabeth because too often, for women, taking a leadership role means having to put up a wall to be respected. It can mean setting aside the characteristics that make you fun, or likable, because we’re afraid they’ll be perceived as weaknesses.  Elisabeth demands respect through her passion, knowledge, and ability to do her job, but remains wholly herself.

With the Thanksgiving holiday being celebrated this month – share with us someone in your life that you are truly grateful for.

I am incredibly grateful for my mother; while my entire world may revolve around my son, my mom is the one who has ensured it keeps turning. She is the maker of dinner, the sitter of kid, and the cleaner of houses when I can’t be. She allows me to raise my child without intervention, but provides gentle reminders not to take anything for granted and to enjoy every moment of the life we’re living.

How do you find gratitude?  Or do you?

I find gratitude through volunteering. I have only really volunteered the last couple of years, but what a difference it has made in my perspective.  I used to turn away from people who had so little because it was uncomfortable for me. For ME! I shake my head now at my own ridiculousness, and gratefully go home to my own house every day.

Allison

allisonDo you think people are less or more grateful today than in the past?

I’m saddened to say that on a whole, I do find that people tend to be less grateful for what they have in their lives, although I can’t say I can accurately compare to gratitude levels in the past! What I notice is that people generally speak of their privileges as problems, difficulties, or sources of stress – and while I don’t mean to invalidate people’s feelings, I find that many people seem to be losing sight of the privileges and opportunities they have, and tend to colour those things as burdens. It is immensely frustrating to hear, but I do my best to recognize that everyone is different, and that people must go through experiences that will teach them how to cultivate gratitude, since I certainly did not learn how to do so until I was faced with many personal challenges in my own life. In a way, this helps me be grateful for being aware of the importance of gratitude!

If you could share three things you are grateful for – what would they be?

I am grateful for having a pet that greets me when I come home at the end of the day to give their unconditional love and comfort that always puts a smile on my face (or, you know, just wants food), the amazing sunset that serves to remind me that the day is coming to an end and I’ve made it through it, and for the people I have met throughout this past year who understand and support me in my goals!

How do you find gratitude?  Or do you?

I find gratitude by pushing myself out of my comfort zone to cultivate new experiences in my life – even if they scare me! – or to push myself to do things that I may not feel like doing at the time, since I find that doing so always leads me to discovering something new, whether it be about myself or the world around me. I also find gratitude by reflecting on each day and recalling the moments in which I found joy, whether it be through a brief interaction with an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while or the way the sky looks at sunset.

A Journey in Grateful Leadership

What’s the deal with Leadership?

Usually at this time of year, we love to speak to thankfulness, its importance, and especially for the things we are grateful for in life. I look forward to broadening that theme to include Leadership, specifically Grateful Leadership, and how I use it to define my personal Leadership Style.

diplomatic-leader

When most people begin to speak to Leadership, they first define it. Although to a degree we all know what Leadership is and what it means, it’s clear that definition is broad and expansive as this list proves.

My favourite way to define Leadership is to talk about what it’s not:

  • It’s not managing
  • It’s not telling other people what to do
  • It’s not using people as resources to accomplish a personal goal
  • It’s not about control

People follow Managers (and other authority figures) because they must. People follow Leaders because they choose to. Leaders have the ability to influence and inspire people to take action.

Whenever I’ve read a definition of leadership or attended a management workshop, I found I had a very “well, duh!” attitude to most topics covered. It seemed that management and leadership were so straight forward that you could simply use common sense to wield power and get positive results.

After a few workshops, I realized that something that came naturally to me, did not necessarily come natural to others. Even more so, I excelled in expressing gratitude where others did not realize that was even an important thing to do.

What is Grateful Leadership?

Grateful Leadership comes down to the most obvious thing: gratitude.

Grateful Leadership means acknowledging people in an authentic and heartfelt manner. It means saying thank you. It means being specific in your praise. It means knowing and understanding what drives and motivates people. It means understanding what others appreciate.

Grateful Leadership is often categorized as having a genuine interest in what people have to say. This means you are motivated to truly understand others, what motivates them and how you can change your approach to respect their personal work style.

It also means having a genuine appreciation for the people you’re working with.

Finally, as a Grateful Leader, you do not view people just a resource to get a job done. You don’t take advantage of what people can offer, and you don’t manipulate them. You are honest-to-goodness thankful for their support! You don’t view people as interchangeable; rather, you appreciate what an individual has to offer that another cannot.

Why is it important?

Feeling appreciated is a need that most people have. And it’s hard for people to express when that need is not being met. Firstly, we may not recognize that this is a need or that it’s not being fulfilled. Just because we leave work or another commitment feeling grumpy, tired and drained, doesn’t mean we can automatically pinpoint that it’s because of not being appreciated or thanked – especially when this starts happening over a period of time. Secondly, just because we have identified that a need is not being met, does not mean it’s easy to communicate that.

As Laura Trice points out in her TED Talk on The Power of Saying Thank You, we don’t tell other people our needs, because they come from our vulnerabilities. We would be sharing information that is intimate, personal and puts us in a vulnerable position. Is someone likely going to share that vulnerability with their boss? Before trust has been established?

Why should you care about being a Grateful Leader?

The two most important things, in my humble opinion, when working on a team are: Trust & Communication.

Without tust, communication suffers. Without communication, there is no trust. These two items hinge heavily on each other. Once trust is gone from a team, it can be nearly impossible to get back.

Expressing sincere and honest appreciation for someone’s work is a great building block for both trust and communication. Valuing someone as an individual – and not just a tool to complete a job – can influence them to dramatically increase their productivity and engagement. It shows that you’re paying attention as leader and taking note of individual contributions. It’s also a way to get to know your peers and colleagues and understand them better.

How do you express Thanks?

It’s important to be specific and sincere in your appreciation. Compare the two examples below:

  • 1: “Everyone did a great job last week – thanks for your hard work completing that project!”
  • 2: “I want to thank everyone on this team for coming together to complete the project we were working on. Tammy, you stayed late and even missed your son’s soccer game to get this done! Bill, you put in extra effort to ensure the final draft didn’t have any errors. Rebecca actually drove the final copy to our partners instead of having it mailed. Your work is really appreciated!”

Ex. 1 seems nice at first glance. But imagine if you received this over and over again. What about your specific contributions to the team? What was great about the project? After all, it wasn’t a smooth process getting it completed. And now it sounds like we’re ready to rush into the next one.

Ex. 2 delves into specifics. The communicator has highlighted the different contributions of individuals on the team, acknowledged sacrifices they may have made, and shared appreciation of their ability to work together. Bill knows his proofing skills are valued, Tammy knows that making a personal sacrifice was noticed, and Rebecca is recognized for doing something outside the norm – even if it was her job to do so.

There are also a ton of other great examples on how to show appreciation here, here and here.

Why do I care so much about Grateful Leadership?

I worked in an organization where I constantly felt undervalued for my work, where none of my extra efforts were noticed, or – my favourite – when I did something above and beyond my role not only was it not noted, sometimes it was “punished.”

I now take even more care to make someone feel appreciated. It felt as though my former boss ruled under a “No Thank You” policy! If you did the work in your job description, you weren’t thanked because it is expected. And if you went above and beyond, you weren’t thanked, because no one asked you to, so why should that be appreciated?

That kind of mentality really wears a person down. That mentality is one that no person with “common sense” should ever develop. However, no matter our leadership style, there is always room for more gratefulness. It’s not just the horror-story managers that are lacking in their gratitude. We can all improve.

It costs nothing, and means everything.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that lends itself well to traditions. Maybe you get together with Friends for a touch football game, or cram in four meals in one day, or maybe you choose to dine on a Ping-Pong table – Okay, you caught me – those all all from TV. If you’re really lucky, maybe you’ve got some hilarious traditions like our Bloggers, Donna and Carli. Just please, no Tofurkey.

Thanksgiving-dinner

Traditions Old and New

-Donna Shelton

October is my favourite month of the year.  Not only is it my birthday month, but it is Thanksgiving

After a busy summer – where I see next to nothing of my children, family and friends for all the social calendars filled with work and summer events taking everyone’s time –  Fall and Thanksgiving slow things down a bit and allow for some serious “face-time” with those I hold near and dear.

A few years back the time honoured tradition of hosting Thanksgiving was passed down from my mother-in-law Joy, to me.  This was a huge leap of faith on her part, and I love her for that.  Through trial and error, and trial and error again, I now think I have held a few family traditions and created a few new ones of our own along the way.

Not surprisingly,thanksgiving new traditions emerged once I took over. Joy and Emilee (my daughter) bring the desserts – this I believe was set as precedence the year I decided to go “healthy” and serve only fruit for dessert on Thanksgiving.  These two fabulous bakers ensure this never happens again.  Arlee, my eldest daughter, brings the veggie tray and wine, which now ensures that should the turkey cooking time run longer than humanly possible to wait, there are treats to sustain everyone a little longer.  I now double and triple check the weight of the turkey and the cooking time it will take.  FYI, there is a turkey brand that you can cook from frozen now!

As you can tell, I am no cook. Thus explains Joy’s leap of faith in passing this down to me.  However, I can prep and put a turkey into the oven – secret is…turkeys really cook themselves.  Once the turkey (which we name each year, don’t ask where that tradition came from!) is in the oven, Steve – my better half – ensures everything else is ready: homemade potatoes, stuffing, gravy from scratch, dinner rolls and two types of veggies for when everyone is ready to sit down to eat.

canOld traditions I have brought from my childhood; I always have cranberry jelly (and yes it must still hold the shape from the can), dinnerware from generations past, and when stacking the plates for pumpkin pie, I add an extra one for those no longer at our table.  I am always thankful when we can slow down, share a meal together and catch up on each others lives after a busy summer.

And so I share with everyone MY no fail recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

An open, grateful heart, close family, great friends, excellent food, fine wine and always, always, always dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving!

385-oreo-turkeys

Keep On Carrying On…A Tribute to Rosalie

– Carli Taylor

I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t be very difficult to imagine the look on my face as I sat at my Dad’s dining room table on Thanksgiving day a few years ago as he finally, finally…finally brought the turkey to the table. He was swearing, the turkey’s legs were incinerated and still smoking, there was oil all over the platter and I’m pretty sure it was the most god awful looking turkey I had ever seen…carli1

It’s funny how we don’t often recognize a tradition as a tradition until we’ve somehow moved beyond it. Maybe we’ve outgrown it, or found ourselves looking back on it, wishing to share it just one more time. In the spirit of Thanksgiving this is going to be a blog about traditions, but it is also about being thankful.

thanksgiving grandmaMy Dad’s side of the family is very small, and had only a few traditions that as far back as I can remember were never, ever broken. When we gathered, we gathered at Grandma’s. Maybe it’s because she didn’t ask for much. She didn’t insist on us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, having each child wait their turn to open presents or find their Easter treats, sing carols, or list the things we were thankful for… She just wanted to see all of us gathered around her table for Easter, Christmas and especially for Thanksgiving dinner.  Grandma Lee was a wonderful cook—as I’m positive most reader would agree their Grandmothers are. Her turkey was always cooked to perfection and her wet stuffing turned out to actually be delicious – which I discovered once I finally agreed to try it in my 20’s!  She also made sure to include a favorite dish for everyone at the table. Mine was corn, my sister’s was cranberry sauce. (For far too many years these were often the only things we would eat—but that was okay with her because after all, Grandma’s allow those kind of shenanigans!)

I think the hardest part about thinking through this blog, was realizing that I never appreciated those gatherings enough. Maybe there is a part of all of us that just expects these moments…traditions… to always be, or that you can somehow pick up and carry on with—or without them. Maybe I expected that the glue that sealed those traditions together would always hold…

spoonI remember looking around the table, trying to gauge the reactions on everyone else’s face when that horrifying turkey was practically thrown at the table. From horror, shock and annoyance to a twinkle behind their eyes, then the telltale look of control starting to slip and the pressing of lips together until finally, finally someone’s giggle slipped out. And then came the laughter…and for some of us, the tears.

You see, a beloved Mother, Wife and Grandmother had recently passed away, and we were trying to honor her love of Thanksgiving. Our first sign that we maybe hadn’t quite got it right? Location, location, location. I don’t think any of us thought twice about holding it at my dad’s place. To be honest…there was more room and I guess we weren’t quite ready to face her domain. We started to question the error of our ways when my dad’s brand new oven just stopped working. Stopped cold. But it was okay! My Uncle lives just down the road…another oven to the rescue!!

A few hours later, in stomps my dad, raw turkey in hand, and smoke coming out of his ears. Tell me…What are the odds that two ovens (that had previously worked in perfect condition) would be completely useless and mock us by producing a raw turkey? Apparently the chances were pretty high that day!

But it was okay!!fire Because my Father and Uncle had recently watched some crazy fools some really lucky people on Youtube cook their turkey in oil. Voila! A new tradition is born! Light the barbecue.

Holy smokes don’t ever cook a turkey in oil on the barbecue, okay!?

The laughter was needed. The tears were needed. Grandma…well apparently she really needed us to remember who held the best Thanksgiving dinners. And we do. And what any one of us wouldn’t give to be able to tell her that and to thank her for being our glue and giving us so many memories. I think enough time has passed now that it’s time to start some new traditions—maybe I’ll offer to host this year—after all, she did teach me how to make a mean turkey and so far my oven has worked in perfect condition. Plus, maybe it’s time to pass down her ‘special’ cranberry sauce that my sister still adores…for best results, I recommend cranberry free:

cranberry

Do you have a Thanksgiving Tradition? Share it with us in the Comments section!

Images courtesy of Google

Question of the Month – Gratitude

October: Thanksgiving, family gatherings, gratitude. This month, we combine the theme of gratefulness with Person’s Day on October 18th; a day that marks women’s inclusion in the  legal definition of “person”, enabling us to be appointed into the Senate. We take time to think about the women throughout history and in our daily lives who have inspired traditions, and shaped a culture for women today. With mothers, sisters, suffragettes and activists alike in mind, we ask:

As a woman, what are you most grateful for?

Rose-Sanderson-Votes-for-Women

Opinion #1

ecardTo be honest, there are days when I’m really not grateful to be a woman (we all have them!) Growing up, I very much envied the seemingly uncomplicated journey boys experience to get to manhood (so your voice changes, whoop-de-do!) And as time’s passed, I’ve found that maintaining female companionship is something that is far more complex than for male groups of friends.  Don’t even get me started on the thought of childbirth! Men get paid more, are more represented in politics, are not hyper-sexualized in the media, have never stuck a mascara wand in their eye… And the list goes on.

But when you work in a woman’s organization, write for a woman’s blog, and surround yourself with like minded feminists, it can be too easy to identify as a victim of gender.

It’s then that I think maybe, just maybe, some of those challenges I’ve experienced because of my gender have made me a stronger, more resilient and compassionate human being. If I hadn’t been the only girl on a hockey team full of boys, if I had never felt what it’s like to be brushed aside for being young and pretty, or the embarrassment of being thought of as just a sexual object to be whistled at and catcalled…I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I wouldn’t have the good fortune to be sitting at the YWCA, writing this post.

Like Eleanor Roosevelt famously quipped “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”!

Opinion #2

tea-comfort-overload--large-msg-135986262054

Gratitude: noun, the definition of gratitude is a feeling of being thankful and appreciative. 

For me, this is such a far reaching question, with an infinite number of possible responses – so I have narrowed it down for the sake of providing an easy read.
Quick answer: I am grateful for…..the invention of fuzzy towels, flavoured teas, spandex and daylight savings time.  I can’t be the only one that enjoys that extra hour.

Opinion #3

Over the years around Thanksgiving the thing I am most grateful for has changed. However, as I’ve gotten older I have realized that it is not WHAT I am grateful for, but for WHO I am grateful. And the person that I am most grateful for is my mother.

mom-and-daughter-fall

My mother is the strongest person I know. Life has thrown her difficult challenges, but she has always overcome them, and has gotten stronger with each situation. With a husband, three children, and three grandchildren my mother has always been there for each and everyone of us. With a close family like mine, and us all having  busy lifestyles, my mother is at the heart of our family. She reminds my family and I that there is nothing more important than family. I am grateful to have a mother that believes in me and supports me in all of my choices (even if she doesn’t agree with me). I am grateful to have a mother that is always there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on. I am grateful to have a mother that puts the well-being of her family before herself. I am grateful to have a mother that always goes above and beyond for others.

So here is to you Mom, thank you for everything you do and being exactly who you are, and Happy Thanksgiving.

“We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think women can save civilization. Women are persons.”

-Emily Murphy, 1931

Images courtesy of Google and Pinterest