49: Sparked

49: Sparked

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Sparked

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

~Dalai Lama

My journey toward creating a life that has meaning started about nine years ago. I was married, mother of a beautiful four-year-old daughter, and owner of a successful clothing store. Though I looked great on the outside, inside I was running ragged.

From a distance, I looked like I had it all together: nice clothes, darling child, athletic body, good-looking husband, nice home, regular travel to exotic places. Still, as I looked at my life more closely, I wondered, “Why don’t I feel happy and joyful? Why do I feel I’m just surviving every day?” However, in the same breath I was asking myself, “Isn’t this the kind of life that I always wanted, strived for and desired? Shouldn’t I be grateful for what I have?”

Like many people, I could not remember what excited me anymore or what my “purpose” was. I felt exceptionally sad and empty inside and didn’t know how to change. I knew I wasn’t living in harmony with my values. I was drinking too much, bingeing late at night, eating way too much sugar, hanging out with very toxic people, not exercising, and consuming anything that might help me not feel what I was feeling. I was not being true to myself. I asked myself, “Is this how you want to live? Is this how you want to feel?” Without a doubt I knew I wanted to feel a sense of worth and value and living this way wasn’t getting me there.

That year I attended a seven-day motivational event that was led by an amazing woman. At the time I thought I went as a last-ditch effort to save my marriage, but instead it was an awakening of my soul. It was the beginning of finding out what my purpose in life was, what I wanted my life to look like and feel like. What I experienced that week with the help of this woman started to transform my life. She “sparked” a desire in me to go beyond my comfort zone and showed me it was possible to live a life of meaning and passion. She motivated me to stop playing small and do the things that made me proud and empowered.

I began to realize the choices I was making were not lifting me up: not taking care of my body, hanging around people who didn’t inspire me to grow, not living in a home that supported me, and so on. I had to take a good look at what I was doing.

Since that day it has been my mission to learn what helps me thrive on a daily basis. I first had to focus on some fundamental things: eating well, drinking enough water, moving my body, doing things that I love, taking time to be grateful and making sure I contribute to this world in some way.

The simple phrase “health is your wealth” is the honest truth. Without it I was not able to thrive in my life. I also believe that “food equals mood” and when I feed my body crap that is exactly how I feel. When I was at a low point in my life I realized I had let my healthy diet go. I was not picking foods that were supporting me and I was consuming way too many sweets. Now I try for at least eighty percent whole foods (fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, fish) and I leave twenty percent for some wiggle room and fun.

I was also drinking too much wine and felt exhausted every day. Today I make sure I drink at least half my body weight in ounces of water to keep it cleansed and feeling vibrant. My exercise plan had fallen off and I was not moving my body on a consistent basis. I now make sure I move my body at least five times a week for thirty minutes, either by taking a walk with a friend, yoga, spin class, dance class… anything that I’m excited about. It is a must!

Another thing I realized at my most desperate and lonely point was that I had forgotten what makes me happy. I was busy making everyone else’s lives go smoothly but not taking the time to do things that I enjoyed. I had forgotten the simple pleasures in life that made me smile. So I created a go-to list of all the things that make me feel alive, happy and excited about life. They include making time for girlfriends, self-care, buying myself flowers, playing music in the house, and game night with my family, to name a few.

Another important thing I have included in my daily life is making time for gratitude. I have realized that when I focus on the positive, I have a totally different perspective and enjoyment of the day. I have a variety of ways that I accomplish this. One is a gratitude journal I write in briefly every night. I could list seeing a friend, my daughter doing well in school, or even getting all green lights on the way to the store. The family dinner table has been a great place to show gratitude as well; we go around and say three things we are grateful for. And finally I have a gratitude jar on the kitchen counter for the whole family to write on a little slip of paper any time they have something happen they want to be thankful for. Making time to be grateful has truly been a game changer.

Lastly, what has brought the most meaning and purpose to me is contributing to others. When I had felt so empty inside, I couldn’t think about anyone else. I now know that when I start to go to that place, giving back is what brings me out of those thoughts. Bringing some light to another human being helps me feel alive. Whether it is financial help or giving of my time, when I am in the “we instead of me” zone my life feels amazing.

My life is far from perfect but these days I know what makes me feel happy and purposeful. The changes I made in my life are ones that we can all implement, one at a time. It’s eminently doable!

~Stephanie Jackson

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