Feeling fulfilled comes first with gratitude. Having everything would feel like sweet nothing without it. Winterwares is a place that we try to practice gratitude every day and it fills the space and the people in it with more calm, peace and joy. From deepening relationships, our sense of self and even our sleep — practicing gratitude also has endless benefits backed by science.
Studies have discovered the gratification we receive from soothing behaviours, like eating sugary foods, are less sustaining than practicing gratitude. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based on that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind,” says Emma Emma Seppälä, Happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale and author of The Happiness Track. Other studies have shown that gratitude leads to a significant improvement in happiness in people suffering from depression.
“If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich. Gratitude is very powerful.” — cognitive scientist, Susan Peirce Thompson
Here are five simple and actionable ideas, to experience the benefits of gratitude first-hand;
Keep a gratitude journal
There’s nothing more uplifting when you’re feeling down then flicking back through the pages of a gratitude journal. One study at the University of Minnesota discovered that the stress levels of their participants greatly reduced after writing down all the good things that happened during the day before bed. Keep a journal by your bedside and simply write three things you’re grateful for morning and night.
Thank one person every day
Whether it’s the guy who served your morning coffee, or your friend for simply being your friend. This practice is even more potent when we make an effort to really feel our sentiment as we say it. Making a habit of thanking the people around us is said to develop more new friendships, enhance existing relationships and our feelings towards the people in our lives. The more we practice, the easier it is to feel gratitude well up inside each time we say thank you, instead of simply saying the words.
Give thanks before each meal
If we contemplate long enough on how the food we eat grows, along with all the processes that bought it from farm to plate, it leaves a lot to be grateful for. From the flavours and healing properties of the food we eat, to the people that worked hard to make sure we can easily access anything we need from the grocery store. Taking a moment to be grateful for these things before each meal is an effective reminder to make sure we continually practice gratitude throughout the day.
Write down your moments of joy throughout the day
Maintaining a grateful attitude is habitual, so it can be easy to forget in the early stages of forming the habit. During days or weeks when the world seems grey, it can feel harder to recall all the good things. Keeping a journal to record these moments can help us remember the blissful times, particularly on those days where we need a bit of help. Intentionally being grateful also has a compound affect, leading to more positive experiences and more things to feel grateful for.
Wear a reminder
They say it takes 30 days for a new neural pathway to form in our minds and fire long enough that it becomes second nature. During that time, it takes special effort to solidify. Wearing a symbolic piece of jewellery, or doing something novel like painting one fingernail blue can act as a reminder while we’re in the process of making the habit.
Mindfulness is fast becoming the antidote to stress for modern society and there’s many ways to practice it, from meditation, walking and even eating mindfully. Author Don Gerard shares a guide to eating mindfully through his book One Bowl, a concept intended to make people more aware of the food we eat, how and what we eat. The idea is to use a single bowl to eat all your meals for a period of time.
Buddha Bowls have become a popular menu item at healthy cafes in recent years, but the name was no accident. It’s a reference to a form of mindful eating called called Ōryōki, which was practiced in temples by Zen Buddhist monks. Similar to a japanese tea ceremony, the multi sized lacquered wood bowls come wrapped in a cloth with various utensils, including a wiping cloth and chopsticks. They make a ceremony of eating this way, making sure to practice mindful presence and gratitude in the process.
Why eat mindfully? With so many things to distract ourselves and multi-task with (hello Netflix and Instagram), doing one thing at a time has become more important than ever. Even if you meditate early in the morning, your good work can quickly unravel after eating breakfast, lunch or dinner while intermittently staring at a phone screen.
Fragmented attention deprives the brain of all-important downtime, where we can fully switch off our minds and process the day. Scientists are calling it cerebral congestion and have found it reduces our ability to innovate and be productive. Eating is an opportunity to give ourselves the downtime we need to remain stress free and industrious.
How to practice Ōryōki at home
Practicing Ōryōki at home is simple and doesn’t require a formal ceremony like the Zen Buddhist do (unless you want to). Simply choose one bowl from which to eat when you’re at home for a period of time. It could be 30 days, or three years depending on how much you like it. It helps to have a beautiful ceramic handmade bowl that you love to eat from. Make an association with the bowl as your time for mindfulness. The key to practicing Ōryōki is in the name itself, which consists of three Sino-Japanese characters below;
応 ō represents your response to the gift of your food — a cue to reflect on your foods journey from farm to plate and to focus on tasting every bite (not just the first few).
量 ryō denotes the measure or amount received — imagine your empty bowl is the size of your hungry stomach and fill it to the level that you need to feel satisfied, eating just enough, but not too much. This helps you to become a more intuitive eater and being more in tune with how hungry you truly are and what foods you need on a particular day.
器 ki symbolises the bowl itself — whether we’re eating at our desk, or stress-eating through a meal, rushing to eat is common. ‘Ki’ encourages us to take time with our food, treating the act of eating as a ritual, rather than a chore. Notice the temperature and feel of the bowl in your hand and the aroma of the food. Having one bowl also gives a singular point to focus your attention. Make sure not to multitask and do one thing at a time.
A few of the surprising benefits of mindfulness:
- Reduced stress and depressive symptoms
- Boost in memory and focus
- Better relationships
- Less emotional reactivity
- Increased energy
- Improved general health
Things to note
This is a practice and at first you might feel like rushing through it. It’s important not to judge yourself when you feel like this, it’s all a practice. Start with one meal a day until the practice becomes more effortless and grounding for you.
Photo credit: Danika Zuks, The Hummus Club: “This is one of our past Chef’s plate – the Oven Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke on top of our traditional Hummus, served in the Winterwares everyday bowl. Our Chef’s plate is created by the kitchen and Head Chef Phil Watkins. We feature a new dish every few months using WA seasonal produce. We source the majority of our ingredients locally and we love to do this. We always use fresh WA chickpeas in our Hummus- sourced from Ord River, WA”.
People often describe Winterwares as a tranquil place; one they want to linger in and stay for a cup of tea. Creating a relaxing and beautiful space is easy; it only takes a few intentional adjustments to completely transform how you feel, work, and live. Here’s 10 ideas we use for creating a calm space to recharge in:
Indoor plants have been found to benefit our emotional and physical life. They lower blood pressure, removing toxins from the air and improve our general feeling of wellbeing. Succulents are a low maintenance option and look beautiful in any space from the bathroom, bedroom, courtyard, or studio.
Introducing natural light into the room improves our mood and reduces energy consumption. It looks beautiful, as the sun pours in from the sky light at Winterwares. If you don’t have a sky light, swapping heavy fabrics for sheer white curtains lets the perfect amount of light in.
The five elements
In Fung Shui philosophy, the universe is made up of five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Incorporating organic materials into a space has a calming effect, especially when compared to clinical and man-made interiors. Candles, wooden furniture, a vase of flowers, pot plants, and metal ornaments, are all examples of this concept that help to balance and improve any space.
Diffusers with a gentle mist or a candle scented with oils, do more than simply smell good. Lavender and rose geranium are two scents that are proven to calm the nervous system. The smell of eucalyptus from our Woodland Candle nearly always burns in the studio. It helps to clear the air and add to the calming atmosphere.
While there’s a place for collecting cherished items — too much hoarding can create a feeling of chaos. Keeping a space minimal, helps to keep the atmosphere easy-going. Minimalism can be achieved in a space with clean lines and a consistent colour palette, but be careful to incorporate warm light, warm neutrals and cosy textures to avoid it looking too clinical.
In the same vein as above, the Winterwares studio was designed intentionally with neutral tones, to give the space a relaxed feeling. We intentionally leave out colours that are over stimulating like bright reds or yellows. Sometimes, it’s what we leave out that has the greatest impact. The colours at Winterwares mostly white and grey, with the exception of some pastels and greenery. Light blue, white, and cream are examples of colours that are proven to calm the mind.
A clean space
It’s that age old cliché that stands true; a clean space equals a clear mind. The popular book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ is a great manifesto for this.
The Danish word ‘hygge’ describes the quality of cosiness and wellbeing that can be intentionally created in a space, or occur spontaneously. There’s many ways to create hygge. Our favourite is with cups of hot tea throughout the day and a candle burning. For our workshop, we create hygge with beautiful textures; like linen napkins during lunch. We also find it spontaneously with the feeling of clay between our hands. This wonderful book by Meik Wiking describes the word beautifully, and includes endless suggestions for creating more ‘hygge’ moments in everyday life.
Music is a powerful tool and it can create chaos or calm. Choosing music deliberately is a wonderful way to set the pace and mood in the studio. If we’re lagging a little energy, upbeat instrumental music from classical to contemporary is a great mood booster. The long standing staple though has got to be old-world jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and a little bit of blues.
No matter how calm a space is, it’s useless unless we’re peaceful on the inside too. During workshops or workdays, we encourage the practice of slowing down and bringing mindful awareness to the moment. On days where thoughts won’t stop racing, a few deep breaths, some music and a conversation is usually enough to come back to the moment.
The Refuge Co