The Appreciation Factor

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


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Heartfelt Wishes

Happy New Year

new-yearsPhoto Credit: Paperless PostThe Indigo Bunting/Erin Jang

 

I wanted to take a moment to Thank All of You… my Followers especially, but also the visitors, mentors, and fellow bloggers as well, that continue to visit and/or comment on my site, The Appreciation Factor.  I hope you’ve found the posts helpful, insightful, or that they’ve provided a new point of view. I’m so grateful for you all.

 

I know I didn’t post as often as I should have wanted to this year, but my passion for all things Appreciation has not wavered, but simply the act of completing the posts was challenging at times for me. This was especially true when I always wanted to ensure that my posts and topics are fresh/new content and paused when I wasn’t sure that it was.  Still for 2017, I hope to overcome these insecurities challenges and get more posts out in the new year.

Know that I’m forever grateful for your support, and for those that continue (or start) to follow this blog. You cheer me and humble me simultaneously.

 

May you have much success and happiness in 2017!
I hope you’ll come back for fresh content, tips on saying and writing thank yous (or just notes),
and for new things to appreciate.

I do have a few ideas up my sleeve and hope to start posting in early January. (Thanks for your patience!)

Sincerely,

k of taf


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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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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, why not another 100/or a year.

Note, this was NOT to say that 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 a happier and healthier life.

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 a 15 minute 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?

 


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Appreciation… What’s In it for Me

Did you know that today, January 31st, marks The Appreciation Factor’s 4th Anniversary? Hard to believe that I reached this goal – sometimes harder to believe that I’ve published over 70 posts on the subject. While passionate about appreciation, ensuring fresh content and keeping you my followers interested and more importantly providing content that may make you pause and think about something in a new way, that pursuit can sometimes be challenging.

I recently started a new job which took me away from the blog, and I’m sorry if I’ve seemed MIA. Still you were never far from my mind as I would think – “OH I need write a post!” The next thought, “What should I write about?” It was a struggle this past month for sure.

No less passionate, about appreciation, I wondered, what could I write about and of course today, in the wee hours of the am, it came to me – how appreciation can fit into your life… or Appreciation, what’s in it for me?

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Appreciating You and the Year that’s Passed on New Years Day

2016 New Years

 

Wow! It’s 2016 already. It definitely feels as though the years go faster and faster as I grow older. I guess our parents and grandparents were right about that. Sigh… If only there were a way to slow things down or better yet pause from time to time.   November and December felt especially quick – how about to you?

Before I go any further… Happy Happy New Year!  
I especially send my biggest thanks to you, my followers, for helping make 2015 my best year of blogging.

So the stats: In 2015, I published 37 posts and had over 2,000 visitors and gained 15 new followers (that I know of). I’m humbled. I’m so glad that my writing resonates with so many of you and that many (because you’ve told me) have found useful tips on my favorite topic Thank you notes – as well as for acts of kindness.

I love writing and sharing my thoughts with you, and hope you’ll continue to follow me and my goals of showing and sharing my appreciation of what I have and to others for all they do.

Here are the 5 posts I enjoyed writing the most this year – take a 2nd look – or a first one if you didn’t catch it the first time.  And please…. share your thoughts on topics you’d love to read about or send a link to something you think I’d enjoy. I love getting feedback and info!

  1. Thankful Thursdays. These were a new feature for me this year and I posted 10 issues this year. Here are my top 3 Thankful Thursday posts.
  2. Improve Your Relationships By Showing Your Appreciation at the Holidays This was my first cross over post in which I paired my professional expertise along with my love of sending holiday cards out each year as a way to say thanks.

  3. Goodbye Lovely Summer makes the list because I just love summer and these images give me some warm as the cold of winter is upon us. (Yeah I know it was in the high 60s a week ago today! I almost considered going swimming! – but winter is likely here and here to stay.)
  4. The Just Because Note is something I like to do, but candidly could do it more often as I didn’t quite hit the consistency of 2-3 notes/month – though one note I did send rekindled a friendship that had been dormant for almost a decade.  Perhaps adding this to my top 5 list here will help inspire me to plan better in the coming year.
  5. November’s World Kindness Day. While this was written to celebrate a specific holiday, it’s a reminder that Random Acts of Kindness (ROAKs) can be done quite easily so why not put these into practice all year long.

 

So which were your favorites? I’d love to hear.

I wish all of you only much success, happiness, and the ability to share your appreciation with those you care about, those you meet, and those you work alongside each day. You’d be pleasantly surprised how great saying and sharing your thanks either outwardly or via an act of kindness can make you feel.

Happy 2016!

yours,
TAF

 


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It’s National Thank You Note Day – I’m Celebrating with Janet Parnes

It’s that time of year where you may already be writing thank you notes for the generosity of those around you, but did you know there’s an actual “holiday” for Thank you notes?
Yep it’s December 26th!  I think it was created as it’s a reminder to get your thank you notes out ASAP after the holidays. (hint hint)

Not to worry I’m here to help.  To celebrate National Thank you Day, I’ve recruited my friend, Janet Parnes, Owner and Etiquette Consultant at Etiquette for Today.  I’m having her share her tips on writing a Thank you note. (I thought it would be great to have someone who counsels these tips to others already, weigh in at The Appreciation Factor.  Plus I’m excited to meet someone who values saying “thank you” as much as I do!)

Before we get to the tips, I thought I’d share a little bit about Janet.

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It’s that Time Again When The Radio is Taken Over

It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  A time for giving, showing kindness, and making and buying gifts. Part of your holiday rituals may also include Christmas music (songs and carols).

Do you know the difference between a carol and a song?
Quite simply, Christmas carols are typically religious in nature – think Holy Night.
Christmas songs on the other hand are secular and have no real spiritual or religious affiliation.

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