I am thrilled to launch our first edition of "Mindful Mondays" today!  Why Mindful Mondays? After several years of working with individuals in a variety of settings, many have asked me: "What's all this mindfulness about anyway?"  I often respond with, "It's different for everyone," but in general I begin with this definition ..."Mindfulness is being in the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgment." 

Honestly, when I was first told this, it really didn't mean much.  In order to be truly mindful, like many things in life, it is critical that you feel it, relate to it and then embody it in some fashion. Connecting a definition to meaning and feeling all in one is what is going to make it come alive for each person. So, my goal is for MINDFUL MONDAYS to be MEANINGFUL to each reader. I will go a little more in depth and into different themes of mindfulness each week. So, let's begin!

I normally wouldn't begin a Mindful Monday series with the theme of GRATITUDE, but this is what I am feeling in abundance today.  Last Friday, I was honored to have 30 teenagers join me for an evening of wellness, in collaboration with many other wellness professionals, at Pure Barre and The Juice House in Garwood, NJ. First, kudos to ALL of these young ladies for trying something new. It takes a bit of courage and an openness to attend an event that is new to them - particularly when they could have chosen to partake in many other Friday night activities - some healthy and some not so healthy! The evening included yoga, meditation, pure barre, massage, essential oils, acupuncture and healthy eating.  Every girl who attended CHOSE to come.

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 As I said to them Friday, "Yes, many people have a big influence on you and in some ways hold some of the cards in your life...but really when it comes down to it, YOU are the player. You, girls, are the most important one in this game of life. SO, to that end...thank you for pausing your life and joining me and many other professionals.  You took a risk and by the look on your faces and the wonderful feedback, it seems as though the risk of engaging in something new was worth it!  Thank you for allowing us to guide you.  We hope it sparks a lifetime of learning and practicing many more ways of BEING more mindful."

Simply put, connecting and feeling various forms of mindfulness is what is most important. Today, let's talk bout gratitude.  For it to hold meaning to you, I'd suggest you close your eyes and really think of a few things you are thankful for TODAY.  When you close your eyes, perhaps you'll be imagining a person, a moment or a gesture made to you by someone, or even a gesture you made to someone.  Whatever it is, try your best to hold it in your mind using as many of your senses as possible. 

Gratitude is one of many positive emotions. It's about focusing on what's good in our lives and being thankful for the things we have.  The longer we can hold on to it when it is present, the more it creates change in our life.

Gratitude is pausing to notice and appreciate the things that we often take for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, friends and family.  It's taking a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are when something good happens — whether it's a small thing or a big thing.  We can use lots of words to describe feelings of gratitude: We might say we feel thankful, lucky, fortunate, humbled, or blessed.

Why Gratitude Matters

Gratitude doesn't just feel good. Making a habit of gratitude can also be good for us.  Like other positive emotions, feeling grateful on a regular basis can have a big effect on our lives. Brain research shows that positive emotions are good for our body and mind:  

·        Positive emotions open us up to see more possibilities and take in more information. They boost our ability to develop skills, learn, and make good decisions.

·        Positive emotions balance out negative emotions. People who often feel grateful and appreciative are happier, less stressed, and less depressed. Gratitude is like a U-turn on complaining or thinking about what we don't have.  Not always easy to take a U-turn, but why not try?  Create a new habit!

·        One positive emotion often leads to another. When we feel grateful, we might also feel happy, calm, joyful, or glad.

·        Gratitude can lead to positive actions. When we feel grateful for someone's kindness toward us, we may be more likely to do a kindness in return. Your gratitude also can have a positive effect on someone else's actions. Thanking people can make it more likely they'll do a kindness again.

·        Gratitude helps us build better relationships. When we feel and express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to people in our lives, it creates loving bonds, builds trust, and helps you feel closer.

When we make it a habit to feel grateful and appreciative, it increases our awareness of good things as they happen. That mindset of gratitude has positive effects on our mood.

Build a Gratitude Habit

Sometimes, feelings of gratitude happen spontaneously. But, we also can create feelings of gratitude by deliberately "counting our blessings".  By this I don't mean making a list of what you are thankful for, but that certainly is worth doing from time to time!  How about visualizing what you are thankful for, or better yet, sharing it with someone - "I am so thankful for the evening I had with friends last night".  Have your children share with you what they are thankful for!  It's important that they connect to it too, so ask them questions like:

Where were you when you felt thankful? Was it a person, a feeling or an item that made you feel thankful?  It is okay if they mention material things!  For children, the more concrete something is, the easier it is to describe.  The goal here is to build up their reppatore of what gratitude CAN be.

You can personally build a habit of counting blessings just by paying attention each day to things you're glad to have in your life. Slow down and notice what's around you. For example: "Wow, the sun is shining bright today! What an incredible world we live in," or, "There's John! It was so nice of him to help me yesterday."

Noticing the things you're grateful for is just the first step in building a gratitude habit, but you can try other things too, like taking the time to thank people or pausing to appreciate a beautiful sunset. So why don't we start now. What's good about this moment?  Visit our media sites and share what your gratitude story is for today...spread the good!

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Annette Ferrigno, LCSW is a psychotherapist practicing in Westfield, NJ and the Founder/Owner of Kids for Kids A Mindfulness Movement also located in Westfield.  She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is a trained Play Therapist.  Annette has been working with children, adolescents, families and adults for over 20 years.  Her experience has been rich and varied working in multiple settings including: mental health clinics, foster care, elementary, middle and high schools, and private practice.  She obtained her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Development and Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota and later obtained her graduate degree from New York University.  She is a positive, motivated parent and professional on a mission to make the world a better place!  Wanna join her?  She can be reached at: 

http://mindfulkidsforkids.com or annetteferrignolcsw@icloud.com