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If this is your last...

Jamieson Van Loan

Last week I went to three Paul Simon concerts in a row! I am such a superfan and I couldn't let him retire without seeing him as much as I could. His music has been such a strong force in all chapters of my life. Needless to say, it was amazing but I could sleep for a week straight right about now. 

During one of the shows, I started thinking about how he must be feeling. To spend your whole life following your passion and one day, even if by choice, it comes to an end. The bittersweetness of this seemed palpable towards the end of the shows. It got me thinking about how this was the last (of 103!) time he will play Madison Square Garden and this is the last time he will sing this song to tens of thousands of screaming fans. I cannot imagine it was easy for him. 

I began to mentally apply this to my life. What if this is my last time attending a concert at MSG? What if this is the last time I get to hang out with my gal pal? What if this is the last time I eat a NYC hot dog with the works (yea that happened)? What if, what if, what if...

Duh. We all know that we should live life to its fullest and be grateful and the whole she-bang but are we really practicing this? 

When your kids aren't listening in the morning and you're running on fumes and the bus is about to arrive and they can't find one shoe and you want to run away to a remote island solo...are you really telling yourself, gosh darn it- this is amazing and I'm so grateful?! Prolly not. And that is ok. You are human. But how can you reinforce the gratitude during moments that are stressing you out? 

The vicissitudes of daily life will always throw a wrench into our gratitude practices. Refocusing our mindset during those moments is how we build our self-awareness and minimize negative reactions. 

So do we actually implement this? 

1) Begin to truly recognize negative reactions and feelings when they arise. Be aware of how your body feels in that moment. Speaking for myself, when I get angry or upset, I feel a tightness in my chest. Now that I am hyper-aware of that physical condition, I can validate the emotion and tell myself, "This is how you feel in this moment but it will pass. It is just an emotion and not reality."

Have you realized this? That emotions, although they feel extremely real, are not reality. They are fluid mental states that can alter at any given moment. Do not let them own you. 

2) If you've been suckered into the negative realm, taking deep breaths is key. Before responding to the situation, begin taking deep and long breaths. I like to count to five on the inhale and eight on the exhale. It naturally calms your body and the counting distracts you from rash choices. 

3) Ask yourself this: will this current situation have any serious bearing in my future life? If your kid misses the bus and you're upset that you now have to drive him or her, what are the chances you'll even remember this moment in a year? The answer should be: zero!

Do not let trivialities affect your mood. 

4) Find compassion for yourself. In those moments where you react in a way you're not proud of, forgive yourself and move on. Do not dwell on situations that cannot be changed. It is so easy to over analyze and beat yourself up, but it literally leads no where! Stop analyzing, own the situation, apologize (sincerely) if you need to and move forward. 

5) Start your day with gratitude. I personally have a gratitude journal. I write at least three things I'm grateful for before I leave my bedroom. This, combined with my morning meditation, prompts me to begin my day on the right path. 

6) I am a firm believer in meditation. I try to be as diligent as I can with my practice but sometimes a week will go by and I have to reset my meditation motivation. It helps create inner peace and raises your frequency. Even if meditation seems too woo-woo for you, there is zero harm in trying it. Give it a whirl. 

Now even with these suggestions, will you move forward being a gratitude junkie who is cognizant enough to live each moment like it could be your last? Prolly not. Like I said earlier, we are human and we are flawed. But these tools will begin to set you on a better path. Once you become more conscious of your actions and have a heightened awareness of appreciation, your mindset will shift.

Mindfulness always pays off. 

The question now is, are you going to live today like it could be your last?
Or better yet, your first.