Ara the altar
Ethical, sustainable, earth-aware jewellery
Letters of Ara v2_Letters of Ara copy.png

Letters of Ara

A journal & monthly newsletter in which to explore areas of interest and influence for Ara the altar.

Exploring the Practice of Gratitude with Krissie of This Grateful Now

Coming from an earth-aware, slow living approach, one thing of which I am very much an advocate is allowing ourselves time to slow down and appreciate that which helps us gain perspective. For me, personally, this is often heading outdoors and exploring the beauty of the natural world. But it could be as simple as taking time over making a pot of loose-leaf tea or dipping into a book - essentially, creating time for a little self-care. Whilst I also recognise the importance in allowing time specifically for gratitude, I rarely ask myself the all-important question, what am I grateful for?

I discovered Krissie and This Grateful Now on Instagram around a year or so ago. I was instantly drawn to Krissie’s positive yet honest approach to finding balance. Towards the end of last year, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Krissie to offer what we named our ‘Giveaway of Gratitude and Release’, inviting individuals to share for what or whom they had been most grateful in 2018. Krissie very kindly gifted me one of her gratitude journals – a beautiful linen bound journal containing inviting space for writing amongst quotes, essays and gratitude inspired artwork. Yet, when the time came, for me, the idea of putting pen to paper felt a little daunting.  

On the cusp of a new year, a natural prompt to set new intentions, I wondered if there were others out there for whom this practice of gratitude is intriguing yet unchartered territory. I thought this would be a timely opportunity to seek and share a little encouragement and knowledge from Krissie, the better to understand the purpose behind this practice, and to gain a little advice on how to incorporate it in a way that complements our individual lives. 

 ☾

Krissie – thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. First of all, for anyone yet to discover you or your work, please tell us a little about yourself and This Grateful Now. 

Hello Lauren – thank you so much to you too for letting me be a part of your Letters of Ara! I feel truly blessed to join you in this new beginning!

I am Krissie and I’m a graphic designer based near Hamburg, Germany. After 12 years of studying and working in London, I decided in 2014 to relocate back to my roots. I can now see clearer how I was in total need to get away from the city rush and also connect to myself again in more solitude and calm. Being in my early 30s then, I was looking for more sense in life – more soul and more purpose… The calmer village time has been a true gift for discovering myself and my life path. A big part in this has absolutely been my gratitude practice. It’s now my goal to share this experience and hopefully help bring some light into a rather unsettled world.

 

I like how you speak about finding newness in everyday life on your website, how would you summarise the practice of gratitude and its purpose?

I love how a gratitude practice can give us fresh eyes again to see our lives from new and different angles. For us adults, the novelty of most things has simply worn off. ‘We know it all.’ And to a certain degree that is healthy for us to live a ‘functioning’ life. Yet, we tend to take a lot of things for granted and overlook a lot of blessings, as we rush through our days on autopilot.

To step out of this autopilot we set aside 10–15 min per day (or as much as you like of course) to ponder upon and write down the things, events, people that we are grateful for. Morning or evening – by consciously taking the time to reflect on the good stuff in our lives, we open our eyes (and hearts!) again for all the small and large blessings that actually surround us 24/7.

This rather simple gratitude practice has been proven to lower stress/anxiety levels, strengthen the immune system, improve sleep quality, help us feel more optimism, compassion and happiness (see a more comprehensive list of benefits here). Keeping awareness of our gratitude can also support us through difficult times. It’s not about denying the difficulties in life, yet it helps us create a balanced and calm mindset to tackle them. 

With the This Grateful Now journal itself, you have created a beautiful piece of work. Please tell us a little more about the journal, how it came to be, and how you intend for it to be used. 

Thank you so much, Lauren! 

About 3 years ago, articles and info about practicing gratitude kept popping up almost miraculously and somehow they felt like such a revelation in my life at that point. I was anxious, a bit lost, questioning the sense of my job and looking for a purpose in life. So starting a gratitude practice, I quickly began to see and feel all the benefits it brought to me – finding an inner calm by really appreciating the nature that I have around me, simply feeling a deep gratitude for the present moment, my heart beating, my lungs filling with air, a cup of tea when work gets stressful… all the daily gifts that we easily forget…

With the idea developing, I also saw my job getting more of a purpose again – using my graphic design skills for something I feel really passionate about and I can see as part of my path in life. I want to share my experience and give people the opportunity to experience the same wellbeing and shift in perspective as well. There is so much that gratitude can change for each single one of us and also in a bigger perspective. I think it absolutely creates a ripple effect that I’d love to help spread worldwide. 

The This Grateful Now Journal has been created to become a treasured companion to collect your precious memories and moments of gratitude. I really wanted its design to represent the quality yet simplicity and humbleness of gratitude. With its 365 sections to write down 3 things daily that you are grateful for, it can be started at any day of the year. 

Throughout the 365 sections and also blank pages to write, you find quotes from health and gratitude experts, writers, philosophers, old and young. Also included are illustrations and photography by 14 international artists such as Jean Jullien, Karolin Schnoor or Clara Terne. With 5 essays you can explore the theme of gratitude in health, spirituality and culture. 

To me it has been really important to create a journal that encompasses as many aspects of life as possible. Gratitude shouldn’t be limited to a certain spectrum – it really can be applied to everything! So I wanted to give it a modern context that makes it relevant and intriguing in many different areas. I like to see the journal as well as the Instagram as a meeting point of all of life’s connections to gratitude – health, mindfulness, mental health, science, art, culture, relationships, spirituality, and more…

 

In a recent interview I gave for This Grateful Now, you put beautifully that one of your biggest influences is ‘Mother Earth, nature and the wellbeing of all’ and we spoke about a connection between a slower, more considered way of living, and making time for self-care and gratitude – why do you think this is such an important relationship? 

I think that a lot of our learned behaviour, thinking and also consume patterns are rather fear-based… from FOMO to not feeling like we are/do enough to different-scale worries about our future and that of the planet. 

But we are absolutely waking up and realising that what we truly require (as individuals and as a collective) is to move back into a natural state of love and connectedness – connected to ourselves, our inner knowing and also connected to each other and Mother Earth. We choose (self) love and kindness, gratitude, slow and conscious living as a way of redefining our values – and this choice (and acknowledgement of choice) is simply so empowering!

The wellbeing of all starts with the wellbeing of self. Even if at first sight, this wakes an idea of separateness – self care and love is not selfish nor does it separate us from others… It’s the beginning and the stepping stone for the wellbeing as a collective. 

Anita Moorjani says it so beautifully: “…unless I love myself, nothing else in my life can function at its best. The depth, meaning and joy I experience every day – and the amount of love, kindness and patience I have for others – is in direct proportion to how much love I have for myself.”

Our growing love and gratitude for ourselves will affect the way we live, consume, treat others and our planet. I strongly believe that through this we will collectively create such change to peace and health.

What does a typical day look like for you and how do you incorporate self-care or gratitude practice into your own life?

I’d say I wake up naturally quite early and like to start my days without any rush or stress, which I know is a luxury and I’m very grateful for that! I do a short Reiki session or meditation in bed and often say my thanks to this new day. After breakfast, coffee and getting ready for the day I either drive to my studio or work from my little attic home office – it’s a daily mix of my main graphic design job and creating content for This Grateful Now, packing journal orders and sipping coffee. 

As any job, it can get quite hectic, but I try to incorporate little rituals throughout my day, so I‘m being reminded of staying in balance and calm. I just got an old Tibetan sound bowl, so I love practicing with it and letting the humming sound calm me. There’s probably a ‘Selfcare Co’ candle burning (I know you have them too, Lauren :-) ) and I like to take time to cook and eat lunch as a break of the work day. I’ve made it a habit to thank my food before I eat it (which has such a religious connotation and might not suit everyone) yet I find it such a good way to start eating gratefully and mindfully. As with Reiki I do believe in energy work and I like the idea of giving thanks to the food I nourish my body / energy with.

Then it’s work and if time allows going for a walk with my dad. I really treasure this time with him to talk and connect with him. As I’ve lived away for so long, it’s great to be closer to the family again. I’m getting more and more grateful for the time spent together, as the realisation that we don’t have forever becomes more present. 

I think gratitude has become such a big part of me (and my neural structures), that it automatically appears throughout my day. Often I just stop, take a deep breath and say/feel my thanks to the present moment. 

I’m all for self care and love! I really don’t think it’s a selfish act! As the saying goes ‘We can’t pour from an empty vessel’ and the love we have for ourselves will affect the love, balance and compassion we then shine outwards. One way of connecting with my self is through a gratitude meditation I try to do a few evenings a week. It varies in length and how I do it, but basically I start breathing in deeply into my heart area and imagine filling that space with gratitude for my body, my being and my life. It’s a warm light that I then send through my body thanking every organ, cell of me (well, I’m sure some mitochondria will feel left out, too many :-) ) Being grateful for who we are and our bodies that carry us through this life, working non-stop to repair, heal, keeping us alive… we truly deserve our deepest gratitude! 

I like to end my days writing in my gratitude journal; depending how I feel, I write a little or a lot. The calm I find through my gratitude practice is something I really don’t want to miss anymore.

What would be your advice for anyone thinking of beginning or revisiting gratitude practice for 2019? 

First of all, I’d say to find a way that works for YOU. That can be a journal, bullet points, a page or more of writing, photos, an app, morning or evening… be light and playful with it and don’t feel pressured or think of it as a chore to tick off your daily to-do list. If you integrate it into your day with ease, it’ll become a practice to stay that will bring you calm, optimism and joy.

It is said that it takes 21 days to form a habit, so ideally you do get stuck in in the beginning though ;) But if that habit is daily or twice a week, that is your way! It’s ok to start with the ‘easy’ (yet big!) things like family, friends, sunshine… after a while you’ll be invited to dig deeper and deeper and this is when you’ll really start (re)discovering all the abundance that is actually already present in your life. Your eyes will open again to the often overlooked or taken for granted things/events. And I think this is when the ‘magic’ happens and we really start to FEEL the blessings surrounding us.

This is also the fun part, when we almost are on the look-out for the good stuff. Our gratitude practice then doesn’t ‘just’ happen those 15min in bed or before the shower… we take it into our day and start seeing more things that we can really feel grateful for.

That feeling truly is the main component. When we really feel the gratitude (instead of thinking about it), that’s when all the benefits will start manifesting. Your body will feel the calm, your sleep will improve, your mind will stop rotating with fears and you’ll feel more optimistic, compassionate and at balance. So allow yourself the time to move from that thinking state into the feeling state. Close your eyes, smile, meditate and simple BE in your feeling of gratitude.

But as mentioned, make it YOU! If you’re a very rational person, then of course, it’s totally ok to write it down, enjoy the thoughts of the good things in your life! 

Another aspect can be the ‘reframing’ of things. We can try and not judge things and situations as good or bad. They simply ARE. How can we know that not getting this job might not lead to something much more fitting for us? How can we try and see the end of a relationship as a starting point for stepping more into our own and opening new doors? And how can we still be grateful for the lessons and love that have been present nevertheless? This is not to be confused with being delusional or denying the challenges of life – to me it’s always key to allow in ALL feelings, they all have their right to be felt. Yet gratitude will help us heal and actively create a life of balance and wellbeing.

I’d also say, please don’t forget YOURSELF! Even if it might feel uncomfortable to shower yourself with gratitude, you DESERVE just that! Your body healing, breathing, your heart beating and your mind creating, thinking with all the quirks and ‘imperfections’ are so worthy of your gratitude!

 

Lastly, what three things are you grateful for today? 

Without a doubt, I am very grateful and humbled that I can be a part of your Letters of Ara and having connected with you, Lauren! Seeing how you work and live so thoughtfully with the earth’s resources is such an inspiration. I am very grateful you are spreading that message through your journal now too!

I am grateful for the feeling of new energy and opportunities the beginning of a new year brings. I’m learning to also be grateful for things and events that I like to draw into my life – like they are not there but with openness I invite them in (does that sound woowoo?).

Today, I am simply grateful for good coffee, finding moments of calm and ease in my day, the health of my family, friends and myself, for having just booked some nice workshops to look forward to (Eckhart Tolle and Kyle Gray)… and all in all I’m simply grateful for this very moment, my grateful Now – breathing and being. 

I am so grateful to Krissie for sharing her time with me and Letters of Ara. You can explore more of This Grateful Now and Krissie’s work here. You can also find the recent interview I gave to This Grateful Now, exploring slow living and Ara’s ethical approach here