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Blossom Your Awesome Episode #38 - Intentional Gratitude With Deborah Hawkins

by Sue Dhillon
March 13th 2022

Blossom Your Awesome Episode #38 Intentional Gratitude With Deborah Hawkins

Deborah Hawkins has been blogging on gratitude and mindfulness since 2021 with over 500 reflections on everyday exp... More

Hello and welcome to the blossom, your awesome podcast episode number 38 Today on the show, we have got writer and author Deborah Hawkins hair. Deborah teaches what she likes to call intentional gratitude showing people how to live more empowered and joyful Lives. I am so honored and delighted to have Deb hair sharing her wisdom and insights with us. Deb has written more than 500 reflections on her website. No small and she is going to teach us how to keep gratitude top of mind. Deb thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. Oh, I am so honored and delighted to have you Deb. I'm gonna say we start give us a little of your background and how you got into this line of work. So um currently I am a writer and a blogger.

I've been blogging for about 11 years. My blog is called no small and it's a very mindful approach to a grad should practice. But what's interesting about this is I'm not a therapist or anything, but this actually how I do this changed my life for the better and um I'll give you a little background of my life and situation. Um I'm like 65 years old now. I was born in the mid fifties and I was the youngest daughter in a middle class family. But um everybody I believe is born into a family drama and I certainly was born into one. My, I had a sister that died in a car accident before I was born and another sister that was born about a year before me.

So between the accident and me and she had a very special place in the family, in my mother's eyes, because it was like, feeling that she was forgiven or okay about a replacement child for the one she lost. So for whatever that reason, primarily, um, I was treated a little differently. Um, my sister kind of took her rage out of me and I tried to stop it and I tried to get my mother to intervene, but she didn't really act on this. So I learned at a very young age that I came to two conclusions rather one that I wasn't worth much because it felt from my perception that my mother didn't try to protect me, like she had her own stuff to deal with. And as an adult, I could understand that, but as a child, I really felt left in the cold.

And the other conclusion I came to was that um, nobody would ever listen to me. So, because as a child, I tried to stop being hurt and they try to get adults to intervene, but it didn't do any good. So I really firmly came to those conclusions and that those beliefs really had a big effect on me as I grew up. So I didn't find career satisfaction or relationship satisfaction because I didn't have a very good self esteem and in my fifties, I was trying yet another new job and I moved actually to another city and moved back and it didn't work to find another job and then I had a car accident and couldn't walk for a couple of months and things were at a terrible low point and I decided I had to do something.

I was not suicidal but I couldn't imagine going on living this in this frame of mind. So I started small, I decided I would write reflections or short little essays about little things in my daily life that lives in my spirits or basically things that could appreciate. And that loan was very uplifting, very positive for me. But the fact also that I was a writer who wasn't writing gave me an extra boost because I had like a purpose to write and then a purpose to see good around me and those things started to lived me up and I was furthered along in this path by reading actually everything I wrote for a while and I decided that every I had personal gratitude themes and I believed everybody does and yours are different than mine.

But once you know what your personal gratitude themes are, it makes it so much easier to authentically find those things in the world that is mm I love that Deb Now tell me, did you like what led you to looking for gratitude? Like you're down in the dumps, you're, you know, you're just, you're depressed, you're sad, you're not doing well. What kind of led you to go look for, you know, things to be grateful for. Um I think most people understand intuitively that if they're grateful about something or appreciative of something, even though they might feel like sort of like bliss, happiness, they feel pretty content or um you can't hold two thoughts in your consciousness at the same time.

So if you're relatively content or in a state of appreciation at least you don't feel really overwhelmed by the pain. So I think it was, it made sense to me to look for positives. It made sense to me not to wallow in feeling hurt and not feeling like a victim, but I couldn't like started out with the big grandiose scheme, it had to be very incremental, it had to be very small, how I started because I couldn't imagine really feeling better. But then if I could feel better a couple of minutes a day and then reflect on how those little things made me feel better and how writing about them and noticing them and looking into the details of that experience also made me feel better.

I could build a new positives rather than say what I don't want. I keep my conscious awareness what I want more of. So even if it's a small thing, if you know it's along that direction or that quality that you want to create, you keep building on that rather than think of something you don't want. You know, and try to like produce something different than that with no starting point. Mm I love that. I love that. Deb I love that's such great practical advice to start small because sometimes I think when you're in the thick of anxiety or depression, it's so hard to pull yourself out of it. But just those little baby steps, that's really beautiful. Now, talk to us about intentional gratitude. Right? So I developed this own practice for myself based on the idea that I just wrote down things that was appreciate up of or grateful for and when they reread them these blogs, I realized I tended to write about certain themes.

So some of my personal gratitude themes include like beauty, humor, self appreciation. Because I had very low self esteem as a child when I noticed myself doing something that reflected or demonstrated a good opinion of myself or kindness to myself, I was very uplifted by that. Very grateful for that. So, um once I knew what my themes were, I knew I could find those themes in the world that is So one level of my intentionality has to do with knowing what my themes are and knowing myself well enough that I truly believe that I will find something I can appreciate in almost any situation. So it's not like forcing myself to be happy when I'm not but it's really incredible when you truly believe there is something positive or something, you could take value, see value in in everything if you know what to look for.

So that's one level of intentionality and another level has to do with when you know your themes, you can actually practice deliberately saying how are these themes showing up in this situation? So I might like like being a grocery store, I've told this story before um I might be in a grocery store and I'm absolutely miserable because I'm waiting in the checkout line and there's bunches of people in the line ahead of me and I look at the other lines and I see everybody looks miserable because they're also waiting in line and then I start laughing and we start everybody starts smiling at each other because we felt we really had the same experience. So I experienced a feeling of belonging because by intention I looked for something within the actual event experiences it was occurring that would um that I knew I valued, knew I cared about and once I really felt like this was not just about um having to wait in line, it was about having a shared experience with other people.

I felt fine. Mm I love that. That is so beautiful. It really is um Now Deb tell me like so you know with this intentional gratitude for people, you know there are some people who are just like everything is awful and everything sucks and there's nothing good. So how do you for those people right? Where? And we've all been there, we've all had those moments. I'm not knocking anyone who's down because there are those times in life where you just can't see the good in anything, right? How do you lean into that and in that scenario? Well, I recommend one thing you already noted which is to start small, don't think about turning your life around immediately. Just practice noticing things that make you feel good or better.

And if you could spend more time consciously putting your attention on those kinds of things, it starts to grow. And I think that's an important point. Um I also recommend to people two start from where they are. Like if they're like unhappy, if they could just practice being in the moment and in that moment, consider what if there's anything you could appreciate, It could be the sound of the heater or air conditioning kicking in, it could be the fact that you're barefoot and if you get into by intention being in a moment in the moment, periodically through the day throughout the day. It's good practice for really recognizing that there's things to appreciate all the time.

I also um talk to some people that are dealing a lot with griffin loss. It's so common now because of Covid and other things. The politics and craziness and different things that people feel a sense of loss. I don't recommend that you try to try to mask or deny feelings said or having negative emotions. But I think that if you experience that while you were having these negative emotions, you can still find things to appreciate that starts to give you more balanced and positive and resilient approach to life. So even if you experience sadness and loss, if you know that at the same time, you also have, there's also things you love people you love nature or whatever turns you personally hun.

It's also there to mm hmm Yes. Now a practical tip Deb let me ask you just I believe this to be the case. But I want you to affirm this for us now because you do this, you're writing about this stuff, right? You're sharing your writing, you're putting it down the gratitude, the things you're grateful for. Is that a more substantive way? Like does that do more for us to actually write it down? Well, I think the important thing is to be mindful of what those things are like what you're really grateful about and to actually go into it deeper. Like a person might be grateful. They have a dog. I you know, encourage people to understand their personal gratitude themes. But um let's say for instance, you're grateful you have a dog, what is it about having the dog that you're grateful for.

So some people could, many people could have dogs and they might find their gratitude in something totally different. Like some people love having permission to play. Like if you have a dog, you're always playing with them and bring spontaneity and other wonderful things to your life. Some people love companionship and loyalty, some people love physical closeness, I live alone and I am very close to my dog and sometimes I know it feels really great to rub her belly or feel or feel like physically close to somebody. So that's just an example that not only is it good to understand the past experience uplifted, you try to see undercover uncover why that thing is important to you, why it lives your spirits.

And I recommend as part of finding your personal gratitude themes to consider that theme in terms of being able to be broadly applied to other situations. So if I love um spontaneity and permission to play, I don't have to be with my dog, I could like I'm grateful for that quality in my life. So that kind of explains you a little bit how personal gratitude themes might work, but I'm going to take answer your question now. Um I think that you don't have to write things down as long as you are mindful of what the core reasons are, are the core things that lie behind why you appreciate or value something.

So you could see it more often in the world that is and I find writing is indispensable for this because when you write, um you could actually see your thoughts right in front of you. And I think that is so helpful to journal to support being mindful. It's not required. Certainly I understand some people don't love to write, they have associations with composition class in high school or something. So it's not something they like to do. But I really think there's something incredibly valuable about reading because you can actually see your thoughts and you could revisit them at later times and recognize that when you reread something you might have had something wrong, like what you think might be based on an erroneous belief and there's something about seeing it and writing, you could actually see if you've been really identifying with the fallacy, something that's not necessarily true.

So writing is great. I highly endorse it. Um but the most important thing is to be mindful of what you really value. So you could understand how to identify that in a wider range of situations. Mm Does that make sense to you? It does. Yeah, no, that was perfect. I mean, I that's such a great response because really it's just you're you know, the bottom line really is to just try to practice being grateful. Although the writing can help affirm that Yes, I think so. And then I want to say that my approach is very different then um the early approaches to a gratitude journal gratitude practice. Were you in the day Writing down like in a list 15 things you're grateful for Because I think that creates some positive associations with your experience and that's good.

But that's not really to me, the heart of gratitude. It's that's basically responding in a positive way to an external event. And they really think that gratitude is at its most powerful and most empowering and most confidence boosting when it's internally directed, when it doesn't depend on winning the lottery or winning a football pool or the an event where some guy, you have a crush on calls you back, you can't depend on that, those types of things happening. So you really set yourself up for difficult times if you're depending on external circumstances. I know some people like writing there 10 or 15 things that worked out for them that day, but sometimes it comes easy and sometimes they rack their brains.

They're trying like I need two more there. Like force themselves to think of those things and I think that it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you journal every day. It doesn't matter if you Find 10 or 15 things or four things in the day that you feel grateful about what matters is how much you feel and connecting with those feelings and knowing that you could tap into those feelings. It will because if you know yourself and know what you value those things are all around you. Mm That was beautiful. Deb I love that. I absolutely love what you just said right now. Um you know tapping into things that will and just that's so empowering and you know that mindfulness to be aware of all of the beauty around us.

That's beautiful. There's a quote by Eckart Tolle that was very inspirational. No for me and I might not I don't have it written down so I might not have the words exact. But it's basically acknowledging the good that is already present in your life is the foundation for all abundance. I really work under the assumption that gratitude is not just a response to something that happens to you. It's about how you teach yourself. How do you see that things you value are all around you. Mm hmm wow that is so powerful. Oh I love that. Now let me ask you so dub you were you know you kind of you worked your way out of this depression and discovered you know through gratitude to kind of pull yourself out.

But there's this mindfulness aspect which help us understand how the mindfulness kind of correlated with helping you out of depression certainly. Um I well the whole gratitude practice is not separate from mindfulness basically. I practice mindfulness when I try to understand myself. Mindfulness is not just deep breathing or no stress relief. Mindfulness is understanding your situational, understanding understanding the details within a certain situation and understanding how you feel about those things. So the mindfulness and gratitude is not separate. It's like being mindful of what I feel great grateful for, enables me to identify it in other situations.

So they go together for me. I think practicing mindfulness is hugely important in one's life. It's as simple as identifying what doesn't work, what makes you unhappy and identifying what makes you happier and taking mindfulness to the next level. I believe one of the core aspects of mindfulness is self inquiry, just asking yourself questions like do I like this, do I want to continue this? Do I want more of this? And if you ask yourself questions and see what comes up, you can adjust and re decide. You can read, choose any moment in your life how you want to put your attention. Mm hmm I absolutely love that.

Um now talk to us about you know, I love so your site no small thing and then your books the best of No small thing. Mindful meditations and then I absolutely love the title of your other book, Helium for your heart. Okay, actually, that's my course. So I hear you, I have two books. One is called the best no small thing. Mindful meditations, which basically is a collection of my blogs, 50 blog posts from my 1st 10 years of keeping the blog posting things. So it's from like 2010 to 2019 and um I still post a blog every week. So I've probably written about 500 or so reflections and gratitude And um they all appear on my um my website my blog as well.

My other book is called practice gratitude transform your life, making the uplifting experience of gratitude intentional. And this is like a workbook. It's only about 100 pages and it has some spaces to write in it and it deals with some of the basic concepts of my gratitude practice and um things you could learn or can do to develop your own themes. So, this book is very accessible, very easy to pick up and play with and helium for your heart. Elevate your outlook with intentional gratitude is a two session zoom enabled. The class I give to provide the basics on intentional gratitude.

I offer this as an open enrollment program. I tried to do this every month. I might not do it exactly every month, but I want to do this pretty often. It's available. You could register on eventbrite and you could actually get information on the next class from my calendar page on the website. So, in the two classes, the first class explains my approach and really focuses on helping people come up with their some gratitude themes. And in the second class, we basically all look at slides of everyday experiences, maybe in a library or in a park or a beauty parlor or cleaning your house. And we, I ask people to discuss what, how, how they might have used their gratitude themes to reconnect with, how they are appreciative of this type of situation and it's really fun.

Mm hmm. Well and I love, so I apologize there for mixing that up with your class versus your book title. I do love the name of that class though. Helium for your heart. It sounds like it's just, oh my God, so amazing. So, and I love that you're saying so you haven't practiced by just looking at everyday things and that's so powerful. Right? Hopefully they, anybody who attends my class has some feeling to do a motivation to do a little Work on themselves to come up with maybe five or 6 themes and that makes a second class more worthwhile where they could practice sing how they personally can find things they value in these situations. I remind people that um people have a strange notion of gratitude in that I think a lot of notions of gratitude were taught from us, taught to us rather from parents or people who lived through the depression or really knew lack in their life.

So we were told to be grateful for things because other people didn't have those things and it's like that didn't make any sense to me if my mother told me to eat my dinner and be grateful for it because somebody in china couldn't have that. I didn't feel grateful. I just felt sorry for the kids in this other country that didn't have something they like to eat. So it's like for gratitude to really uplift you. It has to be genuine. It has to be something you personally care about. And if you know what those things are, you could bring yourself up a lot. Mm hmm. I love that. Deb Now let me ask you. So what is kind of, what is your daily practice? What how do you, is it just journaling writing it down? What, how do you take a few minutes every day to be grateful?

Um I don't write a blog or an essay on what I'm grateful for every day. Um I am not, I don't do that as something I have to do every day. But I do have two experiences or two routines I try to incorporate mostly every day and one music acknowledgements. I write five things from the day before that I want to acknowledge myself for. And I also write encouragement. So I write things like um something I did well. Or I made a polyp call or finish something or I cleaned my files or whatever and they write that down as something I want to acknowledge myself for. And then I also write a few things that I feel encouraging from the universe.

It's like um getting a call from you to be on your podcast survived of the blue. I like reached out to you a while ago and I um didn't I stopped thinking about it. It wasn't like in the top of my mind. And then you contacted me and I think that these types of things are really signs of being encouraged by the universe. Because I believe that the more we focus on things that are going our way, the more we just believe they will. I love that they all that also um makes me feel very grateful that I feel in the flow of life. Mm hmm. Yes. Now Deb This has been amazing. You are awesome and so inspiring.

I'm like so inspired to go right. Five things from yesterday and five encouragements for myself for tomorrow. So I am going to do that. I hope others will as well. My enclosing question for you is what is your message for the world? What is your hope? Wow. Um Somebody once asked me about how this practice has changed me and I feel that the biggest thing is that I don't feel like a victim. My hope is that people take responsibility for themselves to be happier people And more compassionate people and cut themselves a little slack but also be compassionate with others and not to blame. Not to like being happy about things not to think of themselves as victims but also not to blame somebody else because things are not working out the way they wanted them to.

And I think taking personal responsibility but also a sense where it's about you but it's not all about you. It's about being of service to everybody in all of life. I think that's an important thing and I'd love to see people take responsibility for their own happiness. It's not going to happen if they get this these shoes or this new car or something. I believe happiness comes from feeling confident in yourself that you could always reach a state of gratitude or contentment on your own. Mm hmm That was beautiful. Deb I thank you so much for your wisdom and inspiration today.

Thank you for having me. Thank you. Thank you so much. Mm hmm, mm hmm.

Blossom Your Awesome Episode #38 - Intentional Gratitude With Deborah Hawkins
Blossom Your Awesome Episode #38 - Intentional Gratitude With Deborah Hawkins
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