When was the last time you thanked a friend, classmate, colleague, or relative for something nice they did for you? This month at The Mindful Collective we’re all about gratitude and thankfulness – there’s nothing that makes us happier!

 

Today I’d love to chat with you in more detail about writing letters of gratitude, and the further evidence of benefits they can provide. While there has been a great deal of research conducted over the years on the positives of writing-oriented gratitude activities (think daily gratitude lists, journaling, and the like), there wasn’t much in the way of data regarding sustained gratitude letter-writing. Until, that is, a recent study out of Kent State University (Toepfer, Cichy & Peters 2011). The investigation examined the effects of gratitude letter writing over time, relating to several components of subjective wellbeing.

 

The study looked at:
1. Gratitude;
2. Happiness;
3. Life-satisfaction; and
4. Depression.

 

Participants in the study were asked to write three letters of gratitude to three different people to express their appreciation. The letter writers were instructed to be reflective, expressive, and to write from a positive point of view, and to avoid falling into the trap of trivial “thank you” notes often associated with gift giving (did anybody else’s parents force them to do this after every birthday and Christmas?!). The results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increases happiness and life-satisfaction. Significant findings supported much of the previous research in the field, and showed new evidence that gratitude letter writing decreases depressive symptoms. In fact, happiness was shown to have a cumulative effect after each letter was written – now that’s a snowball effect we can get behind!

 

Now it’s your turn

We know that gratitude is an incredibly important virtue, emotion and practice; however, the most exciting research finding on gratitude so far is that we can build it – like our muscles! We want to help you do this and that is why we created Your Letters of Gratitude. A gorgeous pack of 13 postcards designed especially for you to put pen to paper and write your very own gratitude letters. You might choose to write to your mum, your neighbour, a teacher or mentor. You might choose to write them all at once, once a week, or spread out over the year. Whatever you decide, this is YOUR gratitude journey and we are so happy that you have chosen to take the first step!

 

Reference
Toepfer, SM, Cichy, K & Peters, P 2011, ‘Letters of gratitude: further evidence for author benefits’, J Happiness Study, iss. 13, pp. 187-201.

DearBody_UNSPLASH
Nicole Yarham

We live in a world where comparison is the norm.  We compare our jobs, our hobbies, our weekend events, our holidays, our friends, our incomes and more shockingly our bodies.  Most of us struggle with, or have previously struggled with, body dissatisfaction, poor body image or body comparison in some way, robbing us from leading a life full of joy. This needs to stop.

 

Australia’s National Eating Disorders Collaboration defines body image as the perception that a person has of their physical self, but more importantly the thoughts and feelings the person experiences as a result of that perception.  They believe that there are four aspects of body image:

 

1. The way you see yourself (Perceptual)
The way you see your body is not always a correct representation of what you actually look like. For example, a person may perceive themselves to be fat when in reality they are underweight.  How a person sees themselves is their perceptual body image.

 

2. The way you feel about the way you look (Affective)
There are things a person may like or dislike about the way they look. Your feelings about your body, especially the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you experience in relation to your appearance, weight, shape and body parts is your affective body image.

 

3. The thoughts and beliefs you feel about your body (Cognitive)
Some people believe that they will feel better about themselves if they are thinner. Others believe they will look better if they develop more muscle.  The way you think about your body is your cognitive body image.

 

4. The things you do in relation to the way you look (Behavioural)
When a person is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may employ destructive behaviours such as excessive exercising or disordered eating as a means to change appearance. Some people may isolate themselves because they feel bad about the way they look.  Behaviour in which you renege as a result of your body image encompasses your behaviour body image.1

 

With this in mind we can clearly see that as we begin to compare ourselves to others we risk affecting our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. We can easily become fixated on trying to change our body shape and get caught up in feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.  This can lead to a heightened risk of developing an eating disorder or poor body image and body dissatisfaction as we engage with unhealthy practices with food and exercise in hope of alleviating these negative feelings.

 

However we need to remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to body shape or appearance.  Yes that can be hard to accept, however challenging the acceptance of our body shapes and limiting the comparison of ourselves is a crucial step towards feeling positive about our weight, shape, size and appearance.1

 

Having previously suffered from an eating disorder, body acceptance has been a real challenge.  I find it hard at times to love myself, limit comparisons and accept my body – imperfections and all.  Therefore I decided that something had to change.  I needed to change the way I viewed and thought about myself as well as my negative self-talk in order to have a positive effect on my thoughts, emotions and behaviour.  For that reason I decided to write a pledge not only for myself, but for all women struggling with poor body image and body dissatisfaction in hope that it would remind us to accept our true selves.

 

Dear Body,

 

I’m sorry I’ve treated you unkindly and poorly in the past.

 

You were never a problem.

 

I’m sorry for letting what other people think colour my judgment of you.


There is nothing wrong with your size, your curves, your scars, your flaws, your stretch marks or you.

 

I know you are subjected to comparisons, daily put downs and even put through pain in hopes of looking like the people on my Instagram account or Facebook newsfeed. However, it’s not your job to look “pretty” because you’re good enough already!

 

So this year instead of working against you, I will work with you.

 

Instead of going on crash diets, skipping meals, binging on junk food and sacrificing on exercise and sleep, I will try to keep you healthy and happy.

 

I know our relationship in the past has been very unstable, abusive and at times irrational and crazy but I promise to love you and be more thankful for all that you do for me and allow me to do.

 

I promise to take responsibility for why you might be feeling unwell, sluggish, lethargic and rundown and not lay the blame unfairly on you.  I promise to invest in self-care and treat you to the occasional massage or pedicure.

 

This year I promise to remind you daily that you are good enough and full of worth.  And when I look at you in the mirror I promise to silence your haters and look at you with loving eyes.

 

I will stop taking out my stress on you by abusing you through my lifestyle choices.  I will cherish you, stick up for you, encourage you, motivate you, celebrate you and embrace you because whether we like it or not, we are in this together – daily – every day – for the rest of our life.

 

With love and gracious kindness,

 

Me.

 

Take some time today to appreciate and celebrate all the amazing things that your body does for you and let these mindful words empower you to accept yourself just as you are.  Then take some time to practice self-care and say some loving words to yourself as you learn to work with your body rather than against it.

 

References (check them out for more information):

 

1. National Eating Disorders Collaboration. 2011. Body Image Fact Sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nedc.com.au/files/logos/Fact%20sheet_Body%20Image_2013.pdf. [Accessed 22 February 16].

DefinitionSuccess_UNSPLASH

From a young age we are told that success is a tangible thing; something you work toward and achieve. Success is something I felt I achieved throughout my schooling life. Completing an assignment, getting a good grade, getting into a sporting team, a dance team, getting the part I wanted in a play. Success was easy. But what no one ever told me, is that that is not what real success is about. This is going to sound like a cliché, but success isn’t achieving, it is being happy, and it has taken me many years to see this. That is not to say the two things are mutually exclusive, an achievement can make you happy and that is a success, but waking up in the morning can make you happy and that success is just as valid.

 

For years after leaving school I felt like a failure, I started uni, but I never finished it. I jumped from one job to another like I was jumping from sinking ship to sinking ship, trying to bail out the water until I finally started to drown. I thought I was failing because I wasn’t good at my job, I wasn’t smart enough or fast enough. I watched everyone around me sleep, eat, work repeat and I was constantly falling behind. I thought I was failing because I wasn’t good enough, but really I was failing because I wasn’t happy enough.

 

In 2011, I was diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder. Living and dealing with this knowledge has been one of my greatest challenges and one of my true successes. That may sound like an odd thing to say, but after quitting work for close to a year, struggling with depression and crippling social anxiety, I have started working full time as a retail assistant. For someone else, being 25 and working in retail mightn’t seem like much, but I ENJOY my job. I don’t dread work every day. I don’t dream up ways to avoid turning up the following day. I go to work, I come home. I eat, sleep, work, repeat. And that is my success.

 

I feel like in today’s society contentment has become synonymous with complacency, but for me, contentment is my greatest success.

 

So basically, what I am saying is that success is not the same for everyone. Don’t let someone else’s definition of success limit you, and don’t let it push you into somewhere you don’t need or want to be. Your definition of success can change over time, and it is never too late to revise your own idea of your own success.

 

I will leave you with one of my very most favourite cliché quotes:

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

– John Lennon

​​

Sara is a crazy cat lady from Brisbane. When she isn’t writing, Sara is a professional window dresser and a cushion aficionado. Sara loves dancing and show tunes and is officially the youngest old person you will ever meet.

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