How much do you know about how intentionality, mindfulness, and gratitude change you as a person, spouse, parent, son, or daughter? It is almost an impossible question, isn’t it? “Lives can only be understood backward, but must be lived forwards,” said Tom McCallum. Well isn’t that inconvenient! That is where I come in.
I am lucky enough to spend my life with Christina. I’ve known her long before intentionality, gratitude practice, yoga, veganism, minimalism, and general self-care was a part of her life. So, it's time to learn a little more about your host.
When we met, she was one of the most focused people I’d ever met on her personal life’s checklist. Get a degree in Nursing (check), work in Oncology (Check), get a Master's degree (check), get married (you’re welcome my bride – check), and the list goes on and on. She isn’t unique in this life long pursuit of future goals. It is always, "When I accomplish a future goal I’ll be truly happy." (I’m not saying planning your life and chasing your goals is a bad thing here. You just need to appreciate the journey, not the destination.)
So back to the question now that you know some background about Christina – How does it change you? I’m not going to lie to you. She will always struggle with a forward focus to some degree. Not to be the bearer of bad news here, but this is a process. You won’t start and be perfect at everything in a month, year, or whatever timeframe you deem reasonable, but I and everyone who knows her well can truly see the changes. She takes time every day to work on herself and give thanks for her life as it stands today. She does practice what she preaches. We wake up every morning just 20 - 30 minutes (darn snooze button) earlier than we normally would to spend time journaling together. If you can only learn one thing from her posts, take away the daily gratitude practice. Instead of seeing days, weeks, months, and years blend together as we chase, no, sprint towards some goal in the future, I see genuine happiness on her face every morning after we finish journaling together. No magic here, but the science is pretty convincing. There are so many studies here (I like data) I’ll try
and summarize a few benefits:
Gratitude Improves Physical Health. You literally feel happier with fewer aches and pains. Now that I’m in my mid 30’s, I’m willing to take a chance on anything can reduce aches and pains.
Gratitude reduces aggression. Seems pretty obvious. Focus on what brings you joy and you are less on the edge waiting for one person’s rude behavior to ruin your day.
Gratitude can improve your sleep. This study cited the benefits of a gratitude practice before bed, but honestly in this day in age, turning off a device for 15 minutes and you might get a similar benefit. I’m a great sleeper so I have no anecdotal evidence to support or deny this study.
Gratitude reduces stress. This is a big one. Chronic stress will shorten your life. Seriously, look this up it.
Check out NPR, Psychology Today, and a dry academic journal from Clinical Psychology Review if you want to do your own due diligence. Over the last few years, I’ve seen Christina be slower to anger, improve her physical health, find joy from the smallest things in life, smile more, and laugh harder. Honestly, our marriage has never been better. She is continuing to grow in her practice and I can’t wait to watch her grow as a person, wife, mother, and friend.
I want to thank Christina. I was the definition of a skeptic about all of this. It all felt, let’s say, hokey. I definitely only participated in the journaling and mindset shift for two reasons. 1) I love my wife and support her 2) I believe you should try new things before you write them off. Now, I seek out time for personal mindfulness practice, I meditate, and I do a daily gratitude journal. I am nowhere near perfect, but I’m a better version of myself today thanks to the practice and her.
"Mr. Intentional" is a husband and father of three, who met your host, Christina, in college at UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!). In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys playing basketball, personal finance, home reno projects, and sipping bourbon. Fun fact: Before having kids he completed a Half Ironman (70.3 miles!).