The more you ensure that your own needs are being met, the more selfless and loving towards others you can be.
A sushi spot and a nail salon.
I have two favorite spots in San Francisco that are my go-to, feel-good places to spend a little time in quiet reflection or restoration. It’s nothing fancy or special, but it means a lot to me.
After a long, tireless, thankless workday behind a computer drawing lines in AutoCAD and Photoshop, I’d descend the steps of the late bus back home from work tired, unmotivated, and exhausted. I would be hungry and a bit sad, and the prospect of heading back to my dark apartment alone sounded miserable.
I began to indulge in two practices of self-love almost accidentally. The first was once a week: I’d take myself to a small sushi shop just a few blocks from the bus stop, work bags in tow, and find a quiet spot under the window to sit. I’d take out a paperback book, order the same $12 dinner, and sit and read chapters of my book. It because a ritual of sorts—a treat of taking myself out to dinner just to read my book.
The second space I started frequenting was a whacky hot-pink nail salon run by three ladies who always drawled about how “fabulous” I was. I’d go in to get my nails done—not that I’m a nails-done kind of person—but because the experience of having someone take care of me, wash my feet, and letting me sink into the blissful state of relaxation amongst a massage chair felt so dang good. It didn’t hurt that they would do an additional shoulder rub for $10.
While battling student loans and low wages, I’d shop at the goodwill just to save up money to go to these stores. When I was too broke to spend the money, I’d fill up a big bowl in my apartment with hot soapy water and stick my feet in it and just sit there, quietly, until the water got cold. I did it because it made me feel luxurious.
These nourishment practices aren’t indulgent; they’re restorative. Healing. Filled with elements of self-care. We often overlook ourselves — taking care of everyone else and forgetting that one of our most important jobs is taking care of ourselves. And herein lies one of the paradoxes of gratitude:
In order to nourish yourself, practice gratitude.
In order to practice gratitude, nourish yourself.
We must be whole and healthy in order to do our best service in the world. Gratitude practices, however, help us to become whole and healthy.
Being thankful and grateful affects your health. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, shares that the scientific evidence is fairly conclusive when it comes to health: “Happy people live up to ten years longer than unhappy people, and optimists have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimists,” she writes.
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How Of Happiness, sheds light on why this is. While “50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point,” the other half is much more malleable—and something we can influence. Ten percent is based on life circumstance, and fully 40% is related to intentional activities and behaviors we cultivate.
What does that mean? “That means that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives without changing our circumstances one bit, and one of the key intentional activities is the practice of gratitude.”
How nourishing yourself is a gratitude practice.
What is nourishment? Nourishment is “food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” Just as we wouldn’t expect plants to flourish in dark places devoid of water, humans aren’t meant to be deprived of love and care. Furthermore, the practice of nourishing yourself and taking care of your body and soul is an act of gratitude. It’s gratitude towards yourself, gratitude towards the gift of life, and gratitude for how hard and tirelessly you’re working.
Each of our actions is an opportunity for gratitude—towards ourselves, towards our lives, towards what we value.
Nourishment isn’t just food—although healthy greens, large glasses of water, and steaming cups of hot ginger tea aren’t a bad way to start. It includes feeding your mind with rich words and good ideas; your soul with vibrant love and caring thoughts; connecting to your community, and reaching out to others.
In yoga practices, the act of taking care of yourself begins with the simple, yet extraordinary practice of breathing. Each breath itself is a gift—a nourishing, cleansing, uplifting ritual in and of itself.
A simple practice of gratitude is breathing out a sigh of relief and taking in a deep breathe of healthy, cleansing, delicious oxygen.
Nourishing gratitude also comes in the form of taking five quiet minutes to yourself to reflect or pause. It comes in relieving some of the pressure on yourself. It comes in saying a gentle no to a busy night so that you can tuck into bed earlier. It comes in the form of getting a babysitter for no other reason than to sit on the couch and spend three hours to yourself. It comes in the form of a long, hot, shower. It’s taking yourself to the movies because you want to and you come back a better, more fulfilled person because of it.
Feed yourself something beautiful.
Gratitude is about nourishing ourselves and our communities. Food is nourishment for our body; words are nourishment for our soul. What are you feeding yourself? How are you nourishing yourself?
If it’s food, perhaps it’s a cup of warm soup, a ripe avocado, or a glass of cool, fresh, clean water. Or you nourish your body with an extra serving of healthy greens, or you add an apple to your bag on your way out. Perhaps you steam a hot cup of ginger tea and journal for a few minutes.
Perhaps you pause for a few minutes before you start a task and take ten cleansing breaths and offer up thoughts of gratitude to the space and the world before you begin.
Perhaps you feed your hungry spirit with thirty minutes of down time or restoration time, by getting your nails done (if you’re like me), or stopping by your favorite burrito place with a book and dedicating it to reading time.
You can also feed yourself with words. I have several poems and phrases I pin up on my walls to read and re-read each day. Just reading a poem is enough. That is gratitude. That is grace.
Today, the beautiful practice of gratitude is feeding your self something beautiful.
[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]
Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, open water swimmer, and urban nerd.
She teaches digital workshops on writing, storytelling, content strategy, and gratitude. This essay is an excerpt from her class on Grace & Gratitude, a two-week journey into the heart, mind, and soul.
By trade, Sarah specializes in media strategy, content strategy, and getting communications projects from conception to creation. She writes at It Starts With, is a stories-based site about psychology, motivation and human behavior, and her work has been featured on Fast Company, The Huffington Post, 99U, Psychology Today, and more. In her free time, she swims outdoors, teaches yoga, writes books, and teaches yoga.
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Warning: This post and the associated podcast are controversial... which is exactly why I like them so much.
Ladies, does your relationship suck? Has it grown stale and boring? Do you feel hopeless, and yearn to feel connected and adored?
What if I told you it's all your fault?
Wait, wait, wait! Don't close your browser!
I get it. It sounds ridiculously chauvinistic and immature. Of course it's easy for me to absolve myself of blame and say that a lack of intimacy in a relationship is not a man's fault, but a woman's... but what if I told you this idea isn't something me and my guy friends cooked up during some late-night video game and pizza binge? What if I told you it came from a relationship expert who is also conveniently (for me) a woman?
Laura Doyle believes that women are the gatekeepers to intimacy in a relationship. She has focused her entire career on empowering women (she refuses to work with men, or even couples) with skills, tactics, and tools to radically transform their average, mundane, or even horrible relationships. If a lack of intimacy exists, and abuse is not present in the relationship, she believes women have the power to change it.
6 Intimacy Skills to Transform Your Relationship
- Self Care - In any relationship, you are responsible for your own happiness. If you rely on others to fill your self-worth tank, you'll inevitably end up stranded on the side of the highway of life, broken down, frustrated, and alone. Rather than relying on others to fill up that love tank, take initiative and fill it up yourself. This means you must love yourself, not just with words, but with actions.Make a list of things that fill you with joy, energy, and happiness then do those things every day. Make them a priority. Whether it's sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee, calling an old friend, writing in your journal, meditation or yoga, reading out of a good book, or some intense exercise, make a commitment to do the stuff you love religiously... make it as big of a priority as brushing your teeth - which you do regularly (I hope).
- Relinquish Inappropriate Control - Did you know that something as simple as telling a man he's doing something wrong - even when well-intentioned - can be incredibly emasculating? As a man, I feel a sense of pride when I can provide, protect, or otherwise take care of those that I love. Often times, correcting things (especially small things), make us feel like we can't do anything right. It's easy to feel defeated, incompetent, and worthless when you can't even dress yourself, or clean a mirror properly.Sure, many of you may say that I'm being over-sensitive. We men just need to "pony up" and "be a man" when it comes to taking criticism. Well, as a man, I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart: If you want more intimacy in your relationship, think before you speak. Your words can fill us up with courage, open us up to vulnerability, and give us the courage to slay dragons... or they can strip us of our confidence. The ball is in your court.
- Receive Graciously - When a man gives you something, whether it's a gift, a compliment, or some form of help, he's reaching out in an attempt to connect. It's a display of his love and care. A rejection or dismissal of his effort to bond with you are not only a rejection of the offer itself, but a rejection of his attempt to connect, and subsequently a rejection of him.Rather than play the "not good enough" card, thank him and tell him how much you appreciate him... because he thinks you're good enough, and sometimes that's all that matters.
- Respect - For this skill, I quote Mrs. Doyle herself. Her words are just too perfect:
"Lack of respect causes more divorces than cheating does because for men, respect is like oxygen. They need it more than sex. Respect means that you don't dismiss, criticize, contradict or try to teach him anything. Of course he won't do things the same way you do; for that, you could have just married yourself. But with your respect, he will once again do the things that amazed and delighted you to begin with -- so much so that you married him."
- Gratitude - Good men don't do kind things with the expectation of thanks, but honestly, nothing is sexier than a woman who regularly expresses gratitude... especially for the things that you don't expect them to be grateful for. When a woman expresses appreciation for something I did for them, it makes me feel like $1 million. It makes me want to do more nice things more often.Cultivating a habit of expressing gratitude every day will also put you in a mindset of looking for the very best things. When you see and recognize the best in a man, he will rise to the occasion, and become the best version of himself. Your gratitude has the ability to unlock hidden reserves of potential, intimacy, and overwhelming love.
- Vulnerability - A truly intimate and trusting relationship requires vulnerability at its very core. Getting naked emotionally with someone often requires a lot more of that trust than getting naked physically with them. Being vulnerable requires honesty and assertiveness, and responsibility. Merely expressing how we feel is now vulnerability. Rather than nagging or criticizing, state your desires. "I feel lonely," is far more vulnerable than "You never come home on time." "I miss you so much," is far more vulnerable than, "When was the last time you took me on a date?"Striving to come to the table palms-open to express your feelings and your needs is courageous... and this approach not only avoids putting men on the defensive, but encourages them to do what they love doing most: step up to the plate and make their women happy.
Most of us do not realize how much individual power we possess to influence, change, and improve our relationships. We get stuck in the tedium of the day-to-day. We forget that little things can make an enormous difference. I hope you have the courage to give these 6 tips a try in your relationship... especially if you see it suffering.
And don't forget to listen to today's podcast at the top of the page. It is full of amazing stuff that blew my mind. I'm sure it will rock yours as well.
[jbox title="Show Notes:" border="5" radius="15"] Thanks for reading and listening to the podcast. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to get episodes delivered to your computer every week!
Check out Laura Doyle's website The Surrendered Wife. And here are some links to her books:
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[powerpress]One of the reasons Kiran and MeiMei have one of the most beautiful relationships I've ever witnessed is that they have both failed. Not only have they failed, but they've failed big! They have put their hearts on the line, and swung for the fences only to be met with rejection, or disappointment, or a big old strike-out. What they so desperately dreamed and wanted did not unfold the way they had envisioned. And yet, these big failures did not break them. Kiran and MeiMei choose to use their failures as catalysts for growth and learning. But using failure as an asset is not easy! It requires crazy amounts of courage, because failure is scary!
It's this irrational fear of failure that most often stands in the way of our ability to fully live our lives and love others without reservation.
Fear is what makes us build up walls of anti-vulnerability. Fear pushes us to lie, or hide the icky parts of ourselves that we don't love. Fear is the fuel of insecurity, doubt, and selfishness.
We fear rejection.
Rejection makes us feel broken or deficient in some way. The feeling of rejection makes us feel worthless and empty. It makes us question everything about ourselves. When we are rejected, we begin to wonder, "What is it about me that makes me so unlovable? What do I lack? What am I doing wrong? Am I not smart/funny/attractive/skinny/fit/outgoing/interesting enough?"
We fear deception.
We've all heard the horror stories. A friend starts dating someone, falls in love, or even gets married, only to find out that the person they have invested so much time, effort, and energy into is not who they say they are. They find themselves being manipulated, abused, or deceived. What if the person I love lies to me? What if they cheat? How can I ever trust others again after a betrayal of trust? Or worse... how can I trust my own judgement of character? What did I miss? How many other people are lying to me? Do people think I can't handle the truth?
We fear abandonment.
The fear that life will slowly pull the people you care about away from you is torturous. Change, especially unexpected change is hard to deal with. It can be devestating to have your world turned upside down without any warning or explanation. Unexpected breakups can be confusing and heart-wrenching. Naturally, people develop fears of abandonment. What if the one I love gets bored of me and decide to leave? What if I fall short of their expectations? What if we can't recover from a disagreement? What if we drift apart, and just stop loving each other?
We fear the truth.
We fear that people will see us for who we truly are... warts and all. We fear that our icky parts make us unloveable. If people knew who we really were, they would not want to be with us. How could they? What if my person sees me - all of me - and it's not enough? What if my past gets held against me? What if they find about the skeletons in my closet? Will it make me less desirable, or worse... unlovable? These fears are all fears of failure. Failure to live up to the expectations of others, and sometimes even ourselves.
The only way to combat this fear of failure... the ONLY way... is self-love.
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You must love yourself before you can love others.
When you love yourself, you do note fear rejection.
You do not need the validation of someone else to feel whole. You know what you deserve, and you happily refuse to settle for less. If you are not enough for someone else, they are not the right person for you, and you are one person closer to someone who is. Your love is enough.
When you love yourself first, you do not fear deception.
You respect yourself too much to stand for manipulation and lies. Because you do not fear the truth, you demand it from the people you love. If someone is abusing that trust, you know it is them and not you who has the problem. There is no guilt. You have nothing to be guilty for. There is no shame. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have lived with love and integrity. Your love is enough.
When you love yourself first, you do not fear abandonment.
Being alone is not scary or sad or uncomfortable, when you love yourself because you are always in good company. You don't need someone to laugh at your jokes if you think you are funny. You don't need somebody to tell you you are beautiful if you think you are beautiful. You don't need somebody to stick around to validate or love you if you have no problems validating and loving yourself. Your love is enough.
When you love yourself you will never fear the truth.
Nobody can hold your icky parts against you. You have already embraced them and accepted them. Nobody can use your past, your fears, or your insecurities against you if you love them. You can't be hurt by yourself if you love yourself. Your love is enough. When you love yourself, failure becomes less scary. Fear loses its power. Now it can be used as something positive. Failure can expose our weaknesses. This gives us a chance to make our weaknesses stronger. Failure forces us to stand face-to-face with the truth... especially the truth we are hiding from, or avoiding. This gives us a chance to embrace and love the truth, and removes its sting. Failure forces us to stand up and try again. It forces us to be vulnerable. It forces us to get outside our comfort zone. These things give us a chance to build courage, connection, and to experience growth. If you do not love yourself first, you will always be plagued by the fears of abandonment, rejection, deception, or not being "enough." Love yourself first.