Gratitude is Trendy, but are you Grateful?

‘Tis’ the season to be grateful. With Thanksgiving tomorrow and popular self help & yoga influencers throwing gratitude around like confetti, it sure is a time to at least notice the word gratitude popping up all over your social media feeds. 

But are we actually practicing gratitude just by posting pretty content? The answer is most likely not. Trust me, I am over the moon that something like “gratitude” is #trending, but sometimes it can feel phony and I think you know what I mean… this whole social media culture can feel that way with airbrushed people telling us to buy products to make our lives better and to make us better in general. 

Social media culture is at an all time high, but is it making people feel like they’re at an all time low? It’s hard to tell, but studies show that more people are reserved, depressed, and distracted since the social media developments. How can you protect yourself and your brain (that’s right, social media changes your brain!), from feeling the effects of social media? The best thing to do is try a social media cleanse, for short term benefits! But also, it can be a wonderful experience to really reflect during this time of seasonal change, on what is working in your life, and what is not. 

Social Media Cleanse:

Can you give yourself the gift of completely taking a break from social media over the holidays? Will it make you anxious to not be posting pictures of your holiday decor and festivities? What would It be like if you lived in the moment and didn’t post a thing? If this is too drastic for you, try a day of no social media, but if you are itching for an escape, try a week or two weeks with no social media. Your brain will thank you!!!

If you aren’t planning on taking any breaks from social media, maybe just notice how often you are using it. Everywhere I go, I see people on their phones. I am guilty too, I also check my phone every time I come out of a client and in between destinations. I have noticed this week in particular how disconnected we can be as a culture. Think about a gym, for instance. It’s a bunch of people in a big huge space, all together, but completely apart. You look up from your workout and you just see people scrolling and staring at a screen, completely disconnected from the space around them. Never would I have thought that there could be 60 plus people sharing a space, but everyone is alone and shut off from each other. How can we prevent this epidemic from going too far? Will we all end up in chairs with screens attached to them,  like the movie Walle? These are the things I think about while doing lat pull downs at the gym. The worst is on the road. I watched a middle schooler almost get run over by a car in a pedestrian crosswalk because the woman who was driving was on her phone. Everyone is in a rush, no one can come to a full stop at a stop sign and driving on the roads in Northern Virginia has become quite terrifying. I see people face timing and snap chatting while driving. It’s no wonder 1.6 million car crashes a year result from cell phone use while driving (Edgar & Snyder Associates). Let’s stop the zombie-d out phone culture and start connecting again. 

I love to talk to strangers. Connecting with people fills me up and makes me happy. But I will admit that I do consider myself weird (awesome weird,  of course) and I will strike up a conversation with almost anyone. I’ve dedicated my life and my career to helping people who suffer, my niche market tends to be anxiety (that’s why I have an anxiety blog!). I work with teens a lot, and one thing I have noticed across the board, is that they are plagued by social media. It is a constant source of stress and unnecessary pressure and It scares the shit out of me for my future kids (sorry, I said shit). 

I guess I sound like a huge hypocrite. Here I am, writing this blog to post to my personal Instagram account & my business Instagram account (follow EMpower_Yoga_Therapy- great plug huh?). There are positives to social media, especially since people pay so much attention to it, it’s helpful to get messages out there. I am just encouraging everyone in this time of seasonal change to reflect deeply. Everybody always wants to make big changes on New Years, but the Fall is one of the best times to reflect before you enter a deep, and purposefully restorative, winter. 

Reflection Exercise:

Take an inventory of what is working in your life and what is not. What things are you doing that are really giving back to you, leading you towards success, or making you feel balanced? List them out and then notice them. Once you have your list of positives, first, decide on one to three habits/ routines/ emotions that are bringing you down, taking you out of balance, and making you feel stuck.  Consider each one of these points deeply. Why are you feeling this way/ repeating this habit, or having this conflict? Is there a small shift that you could make that would positively impact your lifestyle? 

Once you’ve considered these points, set an intention for these goals and changes. What virtue will help you as you try to change habits or keep healthy ones? Can you create a powerful mantra around these goals to use when you feel stuck or lost? Your intention will help you lead the way towards powerful shifts and healthy change and your mantra will help you stay focused and present within that intention. 

It is an imperfect journey, but you choose to make it beautiful. It all comes down to your mindset and the lens that you are viewing the world through. Accept that there are bad days. I have bad days. Now granted, my mindset is probably what is determining them as “bad,” versus neutral, but if we can just accept and move on, we suffer so much less (Type A personalities will suffer more with this, especially if being perfect is the usual goal). If we can accept that there are days of discomfort, breathe through them and stay connected to our intention & purpose, then we can live much more peacefully. 

I look outside my door and see all of the change happening on our walking paths. There are leaves covering the path in an array of gorgeous hues. I look inside myself  and notice the changes happening as well. The growth of my business from a deep passion I had two years ago (and still have). The growth from my eight-year old self in a psychiatric ward, to my college self on the verge of suicide, to a 27-year old who has a long way to go, but who has come so far and gained so much wisdom. It is sometimes hard to notice how much we are changing from the day- to-day, but look back over the last year, 5-years, 10-years, you are changing just like the leaves, darling. 

From this growth and this purpose, you can find real and authentic gratitude. Not #grateful Instagram bullshit, but real gratitude. I am grateful for all of the beautiful things in my life, and all of the ugly things that made me who I am today. Without an anxiety disorder and crippling depression, I would have never found yoga and probably would have never connected so deeply within to discover my truth beneath my darkest layers. Life is really beautiful if you take the time to notice it. 

Take time to notice this Thanksgiving. I wish all of you a season of positive and beautiful change. If you are up for a social media cleanse, feel free to join me! I will be taking the next 2-weeks to cleanse my brain and my eyeballs from screens and influencers. May you find peace in your mind, body, and spirit.

Follow me on Facebook @Empower Yoga Therapy & Instagram

If you are local, my teens yoga for anxiety group will start back up on December 12th. Email empowerthroughyoga@gmail.com for info & bookings! Private yoga therapy is always an option!

Namaste,

Maddie Tuohy