Jog Blog Adventure

Inspiration nudged me out of bed this morning and it made me do something awesome that I never have done before….

That inspiration came in many forms: sunlight beaming through my window — as you will see, it was a beautiful, crisp San Francisco spring morning — a fresh bowl of strawberries and an early morning phone call with an old college friend, Sandy, who wanted to spontaneously drop by for a visit. A series of events led me to the theme of today’s video and blog post: Gratitude — and how it can change the trajectory of your day.

So I blog today in honor of being aware and grateful of everything around me as I go about my daily routine.

I invite you to slow down and do the same.

Back to this morning… I was surprised to hear Sandy’s familiar voice. “Toan I am quitting my job, so I thought I’d give you a call to see what you’re doing today, maybe we can hang out and catch up?” Sandy said.

After she told me that she was excited to reconnect, I replied, “First off, congrats for quitting your job and yes I’d love to hang out, it’s been a while.” It just so happened that I had no plans (which is a rarity for me because I teach four classes at the Academy of Art and run a nonprofit). No classes to teach, no meetings with anyone from my nonprofit and no conference calls. So, like a little kid who just set a playdate with a long-lost friend, I jumped at the opportunity to reconnect with Sandy.

The phone call left me feeling tingly, excited, grateful for what the day has in store. After my morning ritual of brushing my teeth, washing my face and a moment of silence, I decided to eat some strawberries before going on my morning run. The water running over my bowl of strawberries stopped me for a moment. Time suspended. I was mesmerized.

I took a moment to look at the berries, which were vibrantly red, ripe and juicy — Mother Nature’s gift. I thought to myself, “How often do we ever stop, amazed at the beauty that surrounds us during our daily journey?” The shape of the fruit, juxtaposed with the green stem — every little seed seemed perfectly crafted onto the berry. I never imagined strawberries and a phone call would cause me to pause for a moment and reflect.

After a busy week, I finally stopped once to realize, WOW, I do really have a lot to be grateful for: fresh fruit, connecting with an old friend, a morning jaunt in one most beautiful cities in the world and oh yeah, I have jobs that I love (trust me, I’ve been at many jobs that I didn’t enjoy). Teaching and inspiring a new fleet of multimedia content providers at AAU and of course, my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, where I create videos with a call to action and inspire people to use their resources and talents to give back to the community.

So, my instinct told me to do something I’ve never done before in my life — I pulled out my flip video camera and decided I was going to document what I was grateful for during my morning jog today. Initially, I was going to keep the video for my own reference, but had such an insightful run, I decided to share it with you. It was just the same route that I take regularly, but how I felt was very different.

Just by being aware and focusing on things I was grateful for, I discovered things that I never stopped to appreciate during my daily jaunt. Come along on the journey with me and watch what I found — I hope that it inspires you to be more aware and grateful for the beauty that surrounds you.

As you watch, ask yourself, “What amazing things do I overlook every day as I go about life’s hustle and bustle?”

There were so many highlights on my run: The pure joy that emanated on little three-year-old Ethan’s face — I could literally feel the joy while watching him and his grandmother connect and laugh while running up the hill. Then there were my two new friends, Orla and Danielle, enjoying the sun at the cafe. Orla is a TV reporter with SKY TV in London. Danielle just moved into the neighborhood to attend medical school. Welcome new neighbor! Orla invited me to give her a ring when visiting across the Pond.

This euphoria you receive from being grateful isn’t just make believe. There are many health benefits when you become aware of what you’re thankful for. Prof. Robert Emmons and his colleagues conducted a research project on gratitude and thankfulness at UC Davis and found there are an abundance of benefits by being grateful.

1.) Greater Optimism and Physical Fitness: Those who keep regular gratitude journals exercised on a regular basis and were overall had more optimistic outlooks on life.

2.) Reaching Goals: Thankful people also consistently achieved more personal goals, especially after keeping a gratitude journal for two months.

3.) Stress Relief: Being grateful is also an effective way to release stress, according to Emmons. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.”

4.) Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families. (No wonder that being grateful for strawberries and a phone call from a long lost friend brought me way back to the days of being a little boy, who shot out of bed, ready for the day’s possibilities.)

5.) Helps Cope With Illness: Among people with a neuromuscular disease, Emmons found that a “21-day gratitude intervention” produced more “high-energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.”

I realized that when you go about your day and you look for things that you’re grateful for, you stop worrying about what you don’t have, you worry less and you live in the present moment, you feel and experience life from a whole new space. Your lens shifts. Then you wonder, what can I do to make someone grateful today?

Today’s gift taught me many things. Like the perfectly embedded seeds on the strawberries and the flowers blooming alongside Telegraph hill today, I realized that I too am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in time, in my life, both personally and professionally. And I am thankful for that. Sure I sometimes wish that I could have a bigger house, more money in the bank and that I could afford to own a home here in San Francisco, etcetera etcetera… Then I think about the series of events that have ensued after being laid off from my major market TV reporting gig and deciding to live off of my savings for a year so I could use my storytelling skills to give back through Go Inspire Go team.

I reflect on how much my team and I have been able to accomplish, inspiring and helping tens of thousands of people around the world through our videos. When I embarked on this journey to inspire people (to use their resources and talents to help others) through this project, one year ago, I hoped that at least a handful of people would pay attention and be inspired to act. On a weekly basis, viewers from around the world email to tell us what they’ve done to help others, purely by being inspired by our website and our stories — I would have never imagined that through helping people help others the biggest receiver would be me.

When I stop and think about the things I’m grateful for, I lose count. I just have to make sure I continue to be aware and grateful on a day to day basis. I think I’ll go and download that “Gratitude Journal iPhone application, to remind me to be grateful for all the greatness that surrounds me. I challenge you to go out and look for 10 things you’re grateful for today — and every day. I’m sure that you and those you cross paths with — on your journey to work or play — will thank you too! Thank you for reading…

Whoa, I didn’t thing that a bowl of strawberries and a phone call would lead me to this experience, video and blog today.

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