The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to appreciate and the Ways we look at, Show and Think about Appreciation.


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Best of All…. the Fall

Fahhhhhll…. Is anyone else loving how the fall foliage has remained on the trees much longer this year? I know I am. Apparently the fluctuations of warm weather and lack of frosts are the culprit – which doesn’t bode well environmentally, but, well, I’ll take it if not simply for its beauty.

As you may know, I’m a proclaimed beach girl, so summer is my go to time of the year, but fall…. well fall has always run a close second and perhaps at times takes the lead before the approach of May/June when it summer becomes the front-runner once again.

I think I enjoy fall so much because for me, fall is the time to start anew – perhaps more so than January 1st.
Likely this harkens back to my school days, which I somewhat dreaded, yet looked forward to for the fresh start they brought.  Fall was a time where you could reinvent yourself, try something new, fall in love, or just gain a new perspective. Plus, well, I’m also a fan of fall sports.

ygm-fall-quoteI also love fall for the dramatic visuals it gives us.  As someone who once lived in an area that didn’t have distinctive seasons, fall was definitely the one I missed the most. You may think that living in spring/summer all of time sounds ideal, but really, at least for me, I missed the change to crisp cool weather and the red, orange, yellow, and even the brown, foliage.  I longed for crisp cool days where I could pull on a cozy sweater and boots and explore hushed woods and leaf-strewn pathways vs. sandy beaches and sun-baked terrain.

There’s something magical and overwhelmingly peaceful about walking on nature trails in New England in the fall and stopping to hear… “nothing”… well not nothing, but possibly a slight breeze, a bubbling brook, and/or the rustling of leaves. For me, it’s like time momentarily stops and a calming sense of peace overcomes me.  I’m overtaken by the beauty of the colors, the earthy smells, and a feeling of how grateful I am to be there in that moment, appreciative of being alive, and enjoying fall in all her splendor.

 

The last two weeks I’ve been changing up my exercise routine to include more outdoor walks along many of the Trustees of the Reservations trails and local land trust parks. I’m in awe and have an appreciation of the beauty I’ve encountered. Here are just a few snaps. (Check out that one leaf pic – it was LARGER than my head!!!)

 

fall-collage

What about you… what season is your favorite?  If you love fall like me, what do you appreciate about it most?

hemingway

 


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600

Just an update for those who’ve been following my fitness quest

Today #

600-days                                                                                                                                                                      is in the books.

I know I should be doing the #happydance

 

giphy

and appreciate what I’ve accomplished but, candidly the last 100 days haven’t been as great as the first 500. My interest and drive has waned and waistline is starting to expand.  Still I’ve not stopped.

For me, I’ve found that once you start something/a goal, it’s hard to stop – or better said, difficult to justify stopping/not working out, simply because I want to watch something on TV or “just don’t feel like it.”  I also haven’t completed the goal started eating healthier, “as planned.”  While my weight loss has stalled and started to go in the other direction, despite working out, I can get down right discouraged.  But hey… the harder and longer workouts I was doing aren’t happening as frequently as they should, and are replaced by “easier” walks, so I really have no one to blame but myself.  (Yeah… I’m finding that I’m not as nice to myself about this.)  Still I can say to say that I have done something – like a 20-30+ walk or workout video every day since March 8, 2015. That’s something and I know I’d be in worse shape had I not been doing anything at all.  I just need to get psyched up and motivated again… perhaps that’s also why I’m blogging about it, to regain that excitement.

 

What’s Next

Next week I’m trying a new food plan – it’s a two-week boost process where I’ll eat healthier, through the omission of several favorite “food groups” – like whole wheat and dairy. It does allow for snacks of pickles, nuts, and certain veggies – Yea!! – but am not a fan of plans that deny things.  For me, it makes me want them more.    Still maybe this is what I need to do to get me back on track. My current goal is to make it another 112 days and complete to 2 years straight.  That’s not many days at all when you think about how many I’ve done so far. I want to do this, but I would love to do this with a little more gusto and enthusiasm.  Despite what many in my position could feel, I have not become excited to work out or necessarily look forward to working out. I wish I liked it more. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten in a rut with the approaches I’ve been taking and I want to change that.

So if anyone has any tips to stay motivated, tapes/exercises that would make things fresh again, or just personal stories to share, please do. I could use the additional support and motivation.

And finally… I’m also hoping to get back in to blogging more often.  I know several of you have said that they’ve missed my posts.

Fall is usually my reset or renewal time period, but so far, it’s been more sluggish  than anything else.  I love writing about appreciation and am hoping to find fresh stories and topics to share, not all have inspired me in a way that I’d hope to inspire you. So here too, please send any suggestions my way – I’d be happy to credit you/your blog if you have a post to share, or follow-up on a topic you propose.

2 years… I’m gunning for you.


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Surprise and Delight

I recently worked at national retailer and one of the marketing goals we’d had, was to find ways to surprise and delight our customers.  We were always looking for ways to make the shopping experience better and to go that extra mile to show our appreciation of our customers.  This can be especially impactful when it’s unexpected. (Think of a surprise free gift if you buy something or a discount that you only found out about while shopping.  The customer is surprised by this great opportunity and delighted by opportunity or chance to participate.)

 

This goal came rushing back to me, when I experienced a “Surprise and Delight moment” of my own this week at #TraderJoes.

For those of you who don’t know Trader Joe’s, it’s a national (although not in all states), grocery store.  I think of it as a little bit of a specialty store in that you can buy hard to find items at a good price, e.g., organic coconut oil for $5.99 where it’s usually $7 or more in other stores, and most of your mainstay groceries.  You may not be able to get everything on your list there, but everything you can buy is of great quality.  I’m especially fond of their frozen foods, a Pulled BBQ Brisket, and their outstanding cheese and floral selections. 

I digress… but really I do love this store.

I’d gone to the customer service counter to ask about a cookie product that I wasn’t familiar with and see if any of the managers had tried it.  While asking, I’d mentioned that I wasn’t feeling all that great, and wanted to make some comfort food, especially something sweet.  They raved about the product so I put it in my cart and finished up my shopping.

 

Here’s the good part:
As I’m checking out, the Assistant Manager came over with the bouquet of flowers pictured below.  She said, “We wanted to do something nice to brighten your day.”100_3096

WOW!! I was floored.  My day, aside from the head cold wasn’t terrible, but the store managers wanted to do something nice, just because, they saw me not my chipper self. It was definitely what I’d call a “Surprise and Delight moment.”  It reinforced how much I like shopping at Trader Joe’s and how well I find they appreciate and treat their customers.

 

While I know that not every retailer can or would give out free product to show their customer appreciation, stores could benefit in creating “Surprise and Delight moments” by offering unadvertised promotions, customer appreciation events, or even simply providing above and beyond customer service. (A few of Trader Joe’s customer service perks: Try it before you buy it.  There have been a few times where I’ve been able to try a product before I bought it. (I get a fresh package afterwards.) If you cannot try before you buy, they have a “no questions asked” return policy. If you don’t like it, simply return it. And one more I like… the entry into a $25 gift card raffle for anyone that uses their own bags for their groceries.)

All too often, businesses think solely about the bottom line.  While YES revenue and meeting margin and sales goals are needed to remain in business, it’s nice to see a retailer who understands that on-going patronage and potentially even greater sales can be gained by simply showing their appreciation of their customers .  I know that I tend to shop more often and refer others to stores that outwardly show their appreciation of my patronage, and it is not solely based on whether the store gives me free products or not.

Just something to consider.

 

I was not asked to nor or paid by Trader Joe’s to share this post. Opinions above are my own.


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In the Meantime…

Appreciation

 

I’m so appreciative and grateful for your patience while I’m resetting and developing new posts for The Appreciation Factor.  While you “wait” I hope you’ll check out some of my favorite posts like these:

Tips on Writing a Memorable Thank You Note

The Need for RSVPs

What if you’re not Thankful

Ode to a Swizzle Stick

A Feature on the Cutie Life

365 Days  (By the way I recently passed 400 days and still going strong)

Keep reading and sharing… I’ll be back soon.

– TAF


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Need a Boost of Happiness – Moments to Look for and Appreciate

I cannot take credit for the entirety of this post, but when I came across this list, I was feeling a little off my game. That can come with transitions of course, but the article so reaffirmed that there was much to celebrate, appreciate, and be happy for, that I could not help but share it with you. I even found my mood lifted.  I gratefully credit, one of my favorite sites, Huffington Post Good News and Lindsay Holmes their Healthy Living Editor for the content of this post.

Every once and while, it’s good to be reminded of the little things that we I should be appreciating.

Note this article 20 Tiny Moments That Instantly Boost Your Happiness, listed 20 things. I’ve provided a dozen of my favorites from that list. I’ve also added some comments in pink

 

 “Big moments in life — weddings, births, new jobs, graduations — are special, but appreciating the smaller, daily occurrences can really maintain your happiness.

In honor of the International Day of Happiness, [this was on Sunday 3/20] we’ve rounded up some tiny, joyful moments that never fail to lift everyone’s mood. There’s glee to be found in even the smallest circumstances:

  1. When your boss gives you a compliment.Genuine compliments are way more meaningful than superficial praise. If your boss gives you sincere accolades for your work on something, you know they mean it.  (TAF: I have to agree. I know when I’ve been recognized, it only makes me want to work harder, but I feel that I’m truly appreciated for being a part of the team.)
  2. An upbeat conversation with a stranger. Research shows that social interactions with strangers can boost feelings of happiness.
  3. When the weather is perfect. That skip in your step on a spring day isn’t all in your head. Studies suggest weather has an influence on your mood.
  4. When your favorite artist comes out with new music. Music has a direct influence on your mood — even sad songs can evoke positive emotions. Turn the volume up.
  5. Finding money in your pocket. It’s like your own miniature version of winning the lottery.
  6. When you finally get some peace and quiet. A little silence is good for your soul. Research suggests it could relieve stress and give your brain a much-needed break.  (TAF: When it’s quiet, I also tend to climb into bed,  and curl up with a good book.  This act rejuvenates my soul and temporarily takes me away from whatever stresses have been present in my life.)hand written
  7. Snail mail. There’s just something about a tangible invitation or letter that brings glee. It’s way better than your inbox — which inevitably stresses you out.  (TAF: You know this was definitely something I wanted to feature. A personal handwritten note makes Everyone’s day!)
  8. The first few moments after a fresh snowfall. Is there anything more serene?  (TAF: … Or so beautiful. Seeing snow covering the branches is one of my favorite things.) fresh sheets
  9. Crawling into bed with fresh sheets. There’s just something about a well-made bed that instantly puts your mind at ease.
  10. When someone surprises you with flowers. Any expression of gratitude — whether you’re on the giving or receiving end — can improve your well-being.
  11. Listening to a baby giggle. Honestly, there’s no better sound in the world. Go on and laugh with them — studies show laughing can boost your happiness and even lower your blood pressure.
  12. The look on your pet’s face when they see you. Now that’s unconditional love. Research shows pet ownership makes you happier.”  (TAF: My dad once told me how much he enjoyed how excited my brother’s dog was to see him. Max would jump around and bark gleefully the moment my father would walk in the door.)

What other things can you come up with that have brought you happiness in the moment?

Two that I came up with…

  • Seeing the first buds of spring popping up. While we did have snow on Monday, I still see my crocus and daffodils making their annual entrance!
  • How energized and accomplished I’ve felt after a completing challenging workout – especially one that I reluctantly went into because I really “didn’t feel like doing it” that day.

I’d love to hear what moments you came up with to add to this and Lindsay Holmes list.

Again, my thanks and appreciation to Lindsay for the great article and reminder.  Sometimes we really do need to stop and smell the flowers – or see them poking through the snow.
Be sure to check out her other articles and the links at the end of some of her moments – there’s some great research here. 

365 Days of Exercise


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I Am in Awe that I Got Here

Sometimes we can really surprise our selves if we simply try.

365 Days of Exercise

Today I completed my 365th day of exercise. That is, I’ve done some form of exercise or work out for the last 365 days.  If you’d asked me before at any time in my life if I could have reached today’s goal, I probably would have laughed and said, “There’s no way that will ever happen.” But it did.

 

How I got here

A year ago, I needed a change, and a supportive confidant said, “K what I think you really need to do is get outside and exercise. You need to take time for yourself each day.”  I was so focused on achieving my career goals and ensuring that everyone else was taken care of, that I was forgetting to appreciate and take care of myself. That left me feeling unfit and candidly at times, unhappy. I am so grateful for this “intervention” if you will. That afternoon truly altered my life… for the better.

 

It Starts with 1 Step

When I started out year ago, it began with a 15 minute walk around the block. That’s all I felt I had time for and all I felt that I could accomplish. After a few days, the 15 mins felt too easy or a cop-out, so I walked for a longer period of time – about 20-30 minutes.  I kept saying to myself, I want to promise to do this at least 3 times a week, but I also know that it will take about 21 days to form a habit* and I know if I don’t, I’ll just make excuses and quit after a few days, so I should just keep going until I can’t.  Well sometimes I can get stubborn and after about 10 days straight I said, I’m going to go for that 21 days straight and eventually that turned into a goal of 30 days.

*I’d read this 21-days plan several years ago, thought no there are many articles now that refute that belief. Still it was a goal to work towards at the time so I went with that.

Candidly, the first 60 days were less challenging that I’d thought, and into the next month, I’d decided to go for 100 days straight.  When I hit 100, I texted several friends and got really wonderful responses, so I decided to keep going, setting mile stones of 150, then 200, then 250 and if I could get 250,, what not another 100/or a year.

Note, this was NOT in any way, shape or form, any of my goals were easy to accomplish.  I am also NOT a lover of exercise, not even after 365 days. It’s still challenging to make myself do it every day.  And believe me, I sometimes have to be a cruel taskmaster to get myself motivated or to even simply complete the workout.  However, it really all started with that 1 step.  I just kept putting that one foot in front of the other for as long as I could and for as often as I could.

Have a Goal in Mind

One of the promises I made early on was that while I did want to lose weight, ultimately I simply wanted to just feel better, so I promised not to get on a scale. For me I knew that if I weighed myself that I would become too preoccupied with the numbers on the scale and I didn’t want that. I’m proud to say that I have yet to get on a scale, (aside from two doctor’s visits, where I refused to look at the scale or let the nurse to share the number with me). I have used a tape measured however. I take measurements periodically, typically around a milestone, e.g., 100 days, 250 days etc.  The first measurement was 67 days in and I do have some regrets that I didn’t do it day one, but again when I started out it wasn’t go to for a year.  My real goal was to just to get out there and to start appreciating myself; to almost say to myself that I deserved to be happier and healthier.

I am happy to say that I have lost weight and I can tell by how my clothes fit and by the reactions of others who haven’t seen me in a little while. That’s been really nice perk.  It hasn’t been an easy journey. As I said at times I have to be the evil task-master who says, “NO! You cannot go out until you’ve exercised!”  I’ve also had days where it’s felt like I cannot get through a workout – and therefore have only been able to accomplish 15 mins walk or 20 minutes of exercise, and that’s OK. For me, it’s still getting active for that amount of time that I would have otherwise spent sitting in front of the TV or my computer.

 

How I Did It

You don’t have to have a lot of money to get fit. Really.  I did not spend more than $100 this entire year on this goal.

I started by walking – which is free.  I did this for at least the first six months.  I also took advantage of free trial periods of Yoga – which I still dislike and will NEVER do again, or a Barre class here and there. A summer yard sale yielded a few $1 exercise DVDs that really made a difference too.  I also utilized my local library – again free – and borrowed tapes to mix it up and keep it fresh. The most money I spent was actually on some workout shorts and tights, and none of those were more than $25 at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

My 3 Favs:

Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred  By far my favorite and it really “shred” the pounds in the last several months. Plus the workouts are only 25 mins or 30 if you do both the warm up and cool down.  I find the workouts challenging and everyone has 25 mins.  Jillian’s not for everyone, but she did work for me – even when I yelled “at” her on the DVD!

Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout  Again another 20 mins (Are you seeing a trend?), and they have 10 minute workouts that I found challenging, but not impossible.

Barre3  Now this is a studio and the classes are $23 each where I live. I bought 3 for $45 as a new client  intro and candidly haven’t used all of them yet. The first class I tried was free and sometimes they offer free classes.  Plus they have a lot of promos.  In the fall, my local studio offered a free class with a donation (food) to the local food pantry. I also prefer Barre3 to other Barre programs.  Barre in general, consists of a mix stretching, moves that are similar to ballet and other general exercise, like planks, push-ups and crunches. As I took ballet when I was younger, I’ve really enjoyed these classes.

Tip – Work out first thing. It lessens the ability to make excuses later in the day on why you “cannot” exercise. (e.g., my favorite show is on. I have to go out with my friends.) Get up and Get it Done was my motto.  The more I work out in the am, the better I also feel during the day. I’ve already accomplished something before going to work.

Tip – Share your goals and accomplishments. I found that by sharing my goals that I was accountable to someone else, or at least that’s how I approached it.  I also shared milestones with friends and family.  They rooted for me, which kept me motivated and on track when I needed it most.

 

 

I know this isn’t my usual appreciation post, but it does involve my appreciation of self. I really never thought I could mentally accomplish this goal, or that my body would be able to physically accomplish it.  I also know that this journey has made a difference in the balance that I bring to my life, and that if I set my mind too it, I can accomplish anything.  And not to worry, I will be writing my confidant a heartfelt thank you note for what he did for me. (I’d just wanted to make sure I got there first!)

 

I’d be happy to share more details, or tips that helped me.  I also know that working out every day is NOT something that should be taken lightly. It’s not something I’d recommend for everyone to try. Not everyone’s body can handle it and that most people really need to rest in between workouts, so this is not the norm.  It worked for me at this time in my life.

Next Up… My next goal is to make it through another/the next 83 days until Memorial Day. In these next 80+ days, I’m going to try to improve upon what I eat. I haven’t done that as well as I could have this past year and am curious to see the results when I’m eating better while exercising! Here’s hoping for great results, but it’s OK if I miss here or there. As long as I do my best, is all that matters to me.


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Gratitude… it’s a choice

Another early am rise and I was inspired once again, this time by Nataly, the CEO and co-founder of Happier.

Have you heard of Happier? It’s a site and app that was created to help you find more joy in your life.  You can read posts on their site or use the app to capture and share the small moments that occur each day that make you happier. Plus they offer courses to help you “add more joy to your life.”

I primarily use the website site, being a non-smart-phone user, but often find little gems when I visit. Today found a great quote that really resonated with last week’s post about my goals, especially the one where I planned to list something I’m grateful for each week.

If you recall, I’d talked about how it can feel challenging to be grateful when things seem bleakest.  At times, even I have found it hard to remember that there is much to feel grateful for and to share my appreciation of what I have. So you can imagine that when I saw the quote by Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast, which Nataly heard in an Anatomy of Gratitude podcast, how powerful it was for me.

Gratitude Quote

This quote took some of the pressure off to feel infinitely grateful or happy about all things, all of the time. It said to me, that I can be grateful for and share my appreciation of the smallest thing, something that may only relate to one small moment of time, vs. the sum of everything I may be experiencing, going through or what’s affecting me by outside forces.

So remember, it’s OK to feel challenged to feel hugely grateful or even happy when things look quite bleak from your perspective, as long as you find that one thing.  That one thing IS there if you look hard enough, and make the choice to look for and acknowledge it.

I’m actually also quite confident that once you find that one thing, you’ll likely find at least one additional thing to be grateful and happy about. Maybe you’ll even share those two things and create a ripple effect for others to feel and/or share.

 

What do you think about David Steindl-Rast statement?   Do you believe you can find something to be grateful for even when things seem their darkest?
What one thing are you grateful for or happy about in this moment?