The Vitamin D fix…it is amazing what a little bit of sun can do for the soul. I went to the Big island of Hawaii and then to Kauai a few weeks ago. We had a surreal time kayaking with dolphins in Kaelakekua Bay, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters with our kayaks tethered to our waists (no beaching or anchoring of kayaks is allowed in the marine preserve). We found hidden beaches off muddy 4WD roads and watched amazingly saturated sunsets with colors enriched by volcanic ash, beholding the burning red orb of our sun descending below the horizon. A helicopter ride into the other-worldly valleys of the Na Pali Coast sent us into meditation thousands of feet above the world that we’d hiked below. Quiet moments on deserted beaches–including the 15 (or is it 17?)-mile stretch of beach at Polihale State Park–are always such a surprise for an island that is a part of our normally crowded and busy US of A. I returned refreshed and renewed, appreciating the gifts of daily dips and playing in healing ocean waters, fresh and locally-grown food each day, and a slower pace of life.
Ultimately, this much-needed vacation was also a timely reminder to count my blessings. This journey and my subsequent return home allowed me to take inventory and truly see what was before me in the here and now, in my daily life, with my local community and family. I have a renewed appreciation for my close group of friends and the beautiful valley I live in, where I can access organic and local food at our farmer’s markets or the Ashland Food Co-op, take daily trail runs in the mountains, go xc skiing in the afternoons, and not have to rush around to find parking every day. I can walk to my dear friends’ homes, sleep with a clear starry sky above, and spend a quiet evening away from traffic and smog. I returned to snow and crisp air…and feel enlivened! It’s nice when it feels good to come home.
Consider starting a gratitude journal. Studies have shown that people who keep gratitude journals or have some kind of gratitude practice for only 15 minutes a week have higher rates of happiness and less risk of depression. Wake up in the morning and take a few minutes to state (verbally or internally) what you’re grateful for–even if it is as simple as having woken up. Never take that for granted! Or, write in a journal once a week listing your blessings: your family, a roof over your head, your dearest friend(s), food in your stomach. Whatever it is, you deserve to remind yourself of your blessings…they are there! Feel that fully, and bring it into the New Year.