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2016 Gratitude Photo Challenge + Giveaway!


Gratitude Challenge Prompts 2016

Let’s ignore, for a moment, that today is the best day of the year (hooray for Halloween!) and focus on the fact that tomorrow is November! This year has flown by and now it’s time for the SIXTH annual Gratitude Photo Challenge. This is one of my very favorite aspects of Positively Present. It’s so fun to come up with daily prompts, direct my attention to gratitude all month long, and see all of your amazing photos. It’s become such a special part of my year.

This year’s Challenge is extra special because it’s a collaboration with the amazing, inspiring Caroline from Made Vibrant. Caroline has her own Challenges of the Month, featuring monthly themes and daily prompts for becoming brighter in your life, your business, and your creative spirit, and this month we’re teaming up to focus on gratitude!

If you’ve done this before, you know the deal. But if you’re new here, welcome! :) Keep reading details, prompts, and info on the a-m-a-z-i-n-g giveaway Caroline and I have put together!


  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to take and/or share a photo every day using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to take perfect pics, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer!
  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as Caroline and I are doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace.

  • Use hashtags #Gratitude30 and #MVcoloryoursoul.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with these hashtags, others can see them and you’ll be entered to win the super fun giveaway Caroline and I have put together! (Scroll down for more on that!)

  • Print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful by clicking here.



Day 1: Color

If there’s one thing Caroline and I can’t get enough of, it’s color! A day doesn’t go by when I don’t feel thankful for life’s beautiful colors. Use today’s prompt to focus on gratitude for your favorite color or to explore how colors play a role in your life.

Day 2: Love

Love is one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Life is filled with all kinds of love, and each one is deserving of our gratitude. Today, think about how you experience or give love in your own life, and share what the word means to you.

Day 3: Nature

Whether or not you consider yourself an outdoorsy type or not (I certainly am not!), nature is one of life’s great gifts. Pay attention to the nature around you and how it makes you feel. Is there an aspect of nature you feel particularly thankful for?

Day 4: Home

When you think of the word “home,” what comes to mind? For some of us, home is a place. For others, it’s a person or a feeling. Focus your attention on whatever home means to you and consider the very best parts of it.

Day 5: Knowledge

Since the day you were born, you’ve been learning. Most days, I bet you learn something new. Use today to reflect on what you’ve learned (maybe focusing on the past year) and share that knowledge with someone you love.

Day 6: Music

Music has always played a huge role in my life, and I’m immensely thankful for all the words and notes I’ve been able to hear. Today’s the perfect time to reflect on the beauty of music. (Love music? Check out my weekly playlists here.)

Day 7: Weather

I’ve always been greatly influenced by weather, and I know I’m not alone in this. Whether it’s good weather or bad, I’m thankful for the variety I get to experience where I live. Today, focus on the weather you’re thankful to experience.

Day 8: Friendship

The friends we make in life are priceless, and today’s the perfect day to be grateful for those relationships and think about how they’ve improved your life. (Special shout-out to Caroline, one of the amazing online friends I’ve made!)

Day 9: Wonder

When you stop and think about it, life is pretty crazy. Out of all possible scenarios, here you are, in this life, being you. Spend time today pondering the wonder-filled things in your life.

Day 10: Art

Another topic Caroline and I are both passionate about: art! You need not be an artist to appreciate art -- either in the traditional gallery sense or in everyday life. What does the word “art” mean to you? How do you experience it?

Day 11: Memory

I usually try to keep my mind in the present, but there’s something wonderful about looking back on positive experiences. Today, turn your focus to one of your favorite memories and reflect on why it’s so meaningful for you.

Day 12: Work

If you love what you do, this one will come easily, but even if you don’t enjoy your career, it’s possible to make the connection between work and gratitude. Use today to focus on the positive aspects of the work you do (even if it’s just a paycheck!).

Day 13: Kindness

Today -- World Kindness Day -- is the perfect time to focus on how thankful you are for the kindness you’ve experienced (or shared!) in your life. In addition to snapping a photo today, consider adding a kind act to your to-do list.

Day 14: Joy

What brings you joy might completely different from what make me happy, but that’s the beauty of pleasure, isn’t it? We all find it in unique places! Consider, today, what brings you joy and why you find it so enjoyable.

Day 15: Gift

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes -- from a thoughtful present given to you by a friend to a unique talent you possess. Contemplate the gifts you’ve given and received and highlight your favorite.

Day 16: Comfort

Regardless of the form in which comfort arrives, it’s always such a welcome guest.  Today, focus on your favorite form of comfort. Do you love the physical comfort of a hug or a blanket, or is emotional comfort (a good listener, wise advice) your go-to?

Day 17: Peace

Peace is something we all deserve, but it’s not always easily attained. Consider the last time you felt truly at peace. What made you feel that way? Could you recreate that feeling today?

Day 18: Routine

As you might know, I’m a huge creature of habit, and I’m very grateful for the routines in my life. What routines do you stick to? What do you love about them? Appreciating the more mundane aspects of life can be a great mood-booster!

Day 19: Stillness

Most of us live pretty busy lives, and stillness isn’t always something we make room for. Take a moment for stillness today and pay attention to how it feels. Focus on things, people, or situations that make it easy for you to stay still.

Day 20: Beauty

If you pay close attention, you can find beauty almost anywhere. Today, make seeking beauty your goal. Strive to find something beautiful in every situation, and share as much beauty as you can with others.

Day 21: Challenge

The struggles we face makes us stronger and better. Today, be grateful for the challenges you’ve encountered in your life, and, if you’re in the midst of a difficult period, be thankful for the lessons you’re learning.

Day 22: Health

Health is one of the obvious “you should be grateful for…” things, but that’s because it really is so easy to take it for granted. Consider and be thankful for all of the ways in which your mind or body is working well today.

Day 23: Progress

You’ve come a long way since the day you were born, and today is a great day to think about all of the progress you’ve made. What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of? What have overcome or survived?

Day 24: Family

No matter what “family” means to you -- whether it’s blood relatives, a partner, your friends, or all of the above -- it’s a wonderful thing to have. Be thankful for your families today and, if possible, share that gratitude with them.

Day 25: Nourishment

What nourishes your mind, body, or spirit? Pay attention to the things that provide you with energy, enjoyment, or excitement, and be appreciative of the ways they have added value to your life.

Day 26: Wisdom

We all encounter wisdom regularly, but what is some of the wisdom that sticks with you? Where do you gain the greatest insights? Direct your attention to (and celebrate!) the wisdom you’ve come across.

Day 27: Season

Just like the weather, the seasons can have a great impact on us emotionally. In which season do you feel as if you thrive? Observe life’s seasons today, and be grateful for those you’ve been able to experience.

Day 28: Pleasure

So much of what we’re fortunate enough to have in our lives would be considered a luxury in many places. Focus, today, on something that you enjoy purely for pleasure, and be thankful for life’s little indulgences.

Day 29: Attitude

You have the power to choose your attitude at any time, no matter what the circumstances. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Be grateful for your own attitude-choosing abilities and reflect on the attitude you’d like to experience most often.

Day 30: Self

No matter where / what / why / when / how, the one thing you can always count on having in your life is yourself. Spend the day reflecting on your positive traits and embracing the amazingness that is YOU.



So excited to announce that this year’s Challenge includes an amazing giveaway! Here's what you can enter to win. See the rules below! 

  Gratitude Giveaway 

How to Enter

Enter by doing one (or all!) of the following. Each counts as an entry!   

Giveaway Details

  • Every follow / share / tweet / like, etc. counts as one entry
  • Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances
  • The winner will be chosen + notified on December 1, 2016
  • The winner will receive the items shown in the image above 

4 Reasons to Love Halloween



In just a week, it'll be time for my favorite day of the year -- Halloween! :) If you've been following Positively Present for awhile, you're probably well-aware of my love for the holiday. I've never been quite able to pinpoint what it is I love about it (especially because I don't like anything remotely scary...), but this year I decided to chat a bit about why I think I love the holiday so much in my latest YouTube video! 

And, because I've received quite a few requests to see Halloween costumes I've worn in the past, you'll also find quite a few snapshots of Halloweens past throughout the video! 


Halloween-ThumbnailClick the image above to check out the video!  


If you're not into videos, but you're curious about what I discovered when I gave some thought to what I love about Halloween, here are the highlights... 



In my opinion, one of the greatest things about Halloween is that almost everyone can participate in it (unlike more religious holiday, such as Christmas). There's an exciting sense of community that comes with dressing up in silly / sexy / scary costumes and coming together for trick-or-treating or a party. The fact that stores pop up each year solely for the purpose of selling Halloween costumes is pretty awesome, and really says something about the feeling of community that happens each season. The search for a costume itself is something that brings people -- parents and kids, friends, partners, etc. -- together. Consider the last time you saw so many people of all kinds of backgrounds celebrating something together. It's a rare occurrence, and it's one of the reasons I think I love the holiday so much! 


Another reason I think Halloween tops my list in terms of holidays is the fact that inspires generosity in a way that doesn't seem to be as present during the rest of the year. Can you imagine knocking on a random neighbors door and asking for some candy in mid-June? You (or your kids) would be seen as a bit crazy. But on Halloween, that's completely acceptable and even expected. The fact that so many people open their doors and generously share treats with kids is such a wonderful aspect of the holiday, and such a great reminder of how simple and beautiful a kind act can be. Not only does Halloween bring people together with a sense of community, but it also encourages generosity as well. 



Probably the reason I most love Halloween is that it's the one time of year that, as an adult who doesn't have costume-based job, we get to dress up and transform into anything we'd like to be. For kids this is awesome, but I think for adults it can be even more fun, since wearing a costume is pretty much frowned upon unless you're an actor. Every year I get so excited at the possibility of dressing up as something new (check out the video to see lots of my costumes!), and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play around with transforming myself at least once a year. It's a great way to not only try on different hats (literally!), but also to play around with your creativity and inner desires. 



Halloween has always been a time of great celebration and festivity for me, which is probably one of the reasons I love it so much. For me, it's the great kick-off for the rest of the year of fun festivities (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve...), and it's symbolic of finding merriment and joy in something completely silly, like eating candy or dressing up in costume. The celebratory aspect has less to do with the actual Halloween traditions than it does with serving as a reminder that it's important to appreciate (and celebrate!) the little things in life. 


To be honest, I think these are four things we could really use more of in our country right now. We've become very divided as of late and, while I'm certainly not suggesting that Halloween will bring us together in a political sense, it's certainly a great little holiday to help us join together for the common good of candy and costumes! ;)


... if you're wondering why this post isn't going live next week, it's because next week is going to be all about the 2016 Gratitude Photo Challenge! :) It's the sixth year, and it's going to be the best one yet. Check it out next Monday! 

Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now




Two new books -- Compassion and Forgiveness -- from my Effortless Inspiration series debut tomorrow, and their release couldn't come at a better time. Whether you're into politics or not, you've probably witnessed the craziness surrounding the American presidential election this year. People on both sides are filled with anger and frustration and determination, and, while they have every right to feel as they want to feel and hold tight to the views they value, we could all stand for a bit more forgiveness and compassion in this race to the White House. 


In particular, compassion (aka, the sympathetic awareness of others' distress paired with a desire to alleviate that pain) deserves a more prominent place in the rhetoric of this tumultuous time. When we feel passionately about our political stances (as so many of us do!), it can be a challenge to cultivate compassion. Political views quickly become personal, and our individual ideas and desires may make it tough to empathize with, and want to alleviate the pain of, those with opposing points of view. This, coupled with the others' hostility, anger, or even bullying, often pushes compassion to the back burner of our minds (and of the national political conversation). 


Compassion means having empathy for, and a desire to help, someone who is in pain -- something most of have no trouble doing when witnessing a physical manifestation of pain we can label and understand. We have compassion when we see an overtired child throwing a tantrum, a legless veteran wheeling by with a service dog, a homeless mother asking for change on the street, or a heart-breaking image of children living in war-torn countries. But when someone's pain is invisible (or manifesting itself only in words), it can be much harder to access empathy and a desire to help, and gaining access to that compassion becomes even more challenging when another's beliefs differ sharply from our own or support ideas we believe are fundamentally wrong. 


But compassion isn't defined as empathizing with and wanting to help those in pain who share your views. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way, regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs. And, if you pay close attention to how people speak and act during the election (both the politicians and the citizens), you'll see that a lot of people are actually in a lot of pain. Why, instead of striving to alleviating this very obvious pain as we would if it were manifested physically, do so many of us seek instead to tear others down, to combat others with their own opinions rather than seeking to empathize in some way? 


It's hard to be compassionate when we feel so strongly (as we should!) about the outcome of something like this upcoming election. Politics are important, and because the winner of the election can have a big impact on our lives, it's no wonder so many of us get personally and intensely invested in our beliefs. This is a good thing, that people care so much. Knowing what you believe in and having the freedom to defend your beliefs is one of the things that makes America so amazing. But defending what you believe in and having compassion for others who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. 


That idea isn't a novel one, but it sure doesn't seem to be represented very much in today's American political culture. When it comes to the word "compassion" in politics, it's mostly used to describe how candidates feel about the impoverished, ill, or mistreated. It's rarely, if ever, used (in a non-sarcastic way) to refer to those with opposing opinions. Attack ads, personal attacks during debates, and negative, hateful language perpetuated by strong-minded, vocal citizens who want nothing to do with those with opposing views are powerful -- and popular. Citizens have every right to share their views and opinions, but is it a requirement that they be shared without a single ounce of compassion for another's perspective in order to be valid? 


Here's what I think: I think we need more compassion for one another. I get why people attack each other (it's been proven to be effective in advertisements and, if we're honest, it's so much easier to judge others instead of focusing on our own -- or our preferred candidate's -- flaws), but imagine what it would be like if campaigns weren't designed to hurt and shame others? What if, instead, we used our words and logic to dismantle others' arguments, rather than adding to the pain they're likely to be experiencing? (Because, let's face it -- being a human is pretty hard for all of us.)


Compassion for those you dislike or disagree with is arduous, but the rewards for putting in the work are incredibly worthwhile. Not only does compassion make arguments and political discussions more pleasant for others, but you also gain a lot of love, kindness, and respect for yourself when you chose compassion over indifference or meanness. Additionally, I've found that compassion generally makes relationships, interactions, and life as a whole more enjoyable. Here are some ways to cultivate compassion with those around you (regardless of their political beliefs) in this intense environment: 



  1. Amend your attitude to the opposition.

    The first step for creating compassion in any situation is being open to compassionate thoughts. If you're automatically thinking, I could never discuss politics with someone voting for Trump! or If that person is on Clinton's side, I can't even begin to relate!, you're already starting off with a lack of empathy and understanding. Yes, you might have completely different views from someone else and be very certain about where you stand on certain issues, but that doesn't mean you have to go into an interaction with a closed mind. (Also: keep in mind that not everything has to be black-or-white; more than you might think falls into gray areas when you keep your mind open.) Being open to having compassion for others (especially for those you disagree with) is absolutely necessary for cultivating compassion.

  2. Debate (and think!) with kindness.

    Once you have an open-minded, compassion-focused attitude in place, the next essential tip for compassion is thinking and speaking with kindness and understanding. Depending on how passionate you are about a topic (and your personality), this can be a challenge sometimes, but practice really does help. Before you speak, pause for a moment and use the questions from the THINK concept: Is it TRUE? is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND? Imagine if every politician and vocal citizen considered those things before speaking / tweeting / etc.! Keep in mind that kindness is not weakness. You can make powerful, provocative arguments while still being compassionate and considerate of others. 

  3. Campaign for common ground.

    You're not going to agree on everything with most people, but don't write off the power of common ground. At the most basic level, you're both humans and should treat each other as such. Just because you have differing political, moral, or ethical beliefs doesn't mean that, at the heart of things, you're not really aiming for the same life goal: to enjoy a happy, well-lived life for yourself and those you care about in an environment in which you feel valued, safe, and empowered. Envision, for a moment, what the current campaign would be like if Clinton and Trump focused on things they had in common. Doing so wouldn't mean that they didn't have (or couldn't openly discuss) differences, but it would bring to their campaigns a humanity that currently seems to be lacking. 

  4. Fact-check your assumptions.

    One of the greatest roadblocks for experiencing compassion is making assumptions about others. Most of the time when we see someone who is hurting, we feel empathy and, as a result of that empathy, we often want to help them. What typically stands in the way of either of these steps (empathizing and helping) is assuming that (a) they don't need help or (b) they don't want help. When you find it difficult to cultivate compassion for someone, ask yourself why. What is it about this person that causes you to feel or think a certain way? What assumptions might you be making without checking if they are absolute fact? Even if you don't ultimately reject your assumptions, it's important to take note of them and assess whether they are, in fact, valid. (PS: don't beat yourself up for having assumptions; it's human nature to do so, but a truly evolved, intelligent human knows to look for and assess the validity of those assumptions.)

  5. Lobby for (and treat others with) respect.

    Compassion for others also encompasses compassion for yourself. Whether you're involved in a heated political debate or simply engaged in an everyday interaction, it's essential to make sure others respect you. And, just as importantly, to make sure you're respecting others. When things get particularly intense (especially in politics!), respectfulness can be thrown out the window. This, as I'm sure you've seen, never leads to anything positive and it doesn't have to be this way. As with kindness, it's important to remember that you can have a completely different point of view (and argue it) without being disrespectful to someone else. Treating others with respect (and asking that they do the same in return) is an essential aspect of compassionate interaction, and one that often gets ignored when it comes to heated debates. For so long respect for the opposition hasn't been a part of politics so it almost seems as if you have to treat the opposition with distain or disregard, but those two things are not essential for intelligent, thought-provoking conversations. 

  6. Pledge to focus on forgiveness.

    Unless you're some kind of amazing miracle superhuman, you've probably made a mistake or two in your life. We all make mistakes. Obviously some mistakes are made on a much grander, and more impactful, level than others, but consider what might happen if you forgave the mistakes of others (even the really gigantic ones committed by politicians). Forgiving another's mistake doesn't mean you condone or accept that behavior; instead, it sets you free from clinging to hate, resentment, and anger (things that can definitely get in the way of you making valid, logical arguments for your beliefs). Forgiveness isn't about setting others free from blame; it's about freeing yourself from painful emotions. Allowing yourself this freedom will make it much easier to cultivate compassion for those you feel have wronged you (or your country), and will allow you to be more clearheaded and logical when discussing the wrongdoing with others. 

  7. Veto all acts of hate and bullying.

    Along with choosing to focus on kindness and respect, it's also important to reject hate and bullying (for compassion and for life in general). Spend a few minutes on Twitter and you'll have a hard time finding strong political commentary that doesn't, in some way, come from a negative place. Perhaps it's always been this way, but it seems like people spend way more time hating the opposing side than they do loving their own side. If you're trying to make an intelligent argument, you're never going to convince people with hate speech or by bullying them into believing your ideas. Compassionate interactions -- even among people with completely different views -- never, ever include malice or mean-spirited manipulation. It's cliche but true: two wrongs don't make a right. Even if someone else being hateful, you'll have a hard time experiencing compassion for that person if you fight hate with hate.

  8. Elect to expand your perspective.

    A narrow viewpoint is one that quickly gets in the way of compassion. If you're struggling to have compassion for one of the presidential candidates, for example, it's often because you're focusing on what s/he is saying or doing right now. To cultivate more compassion, try taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. When someone says or does something that conflicts with your worldview, instead of immediately getting angry or defensive, pause and ask yourself why s/he might have done that. The question why should be asked a lot more often; it helps us uncover things about people, ourselves, and the world around us that we might not have considered before. When you encounter an idea or action that seems crazy to you, ask yourself, Why might that person feel that way, have that point of view, or made that choice You might not always arrive at an answer, but you'll find it easier to channel compassion. (If you struggle with this step, I highly recommend checking out the movie 13TH. It's an amazing film and is a perfect example of why looking at the big picture is so essential.)

Compassion, wonderful as it is, requires hard work sometimes. When you're struggling with it, know that you're not alone, and try to remember, above all else, that we're all in this together. Regardless of who wins this presidential election, we're all here on this same planet trying, as best we can, to make the most of our lives. You may never fully understand another's point of view, choices, or voting preference, but that does not mean you cannot have compassion for him or her. If you find it especially hard, just for today, try your absolute hardest to imagine what it might be to have a belief completely different from your own and envision the world from someone else's perspective. 


Looking to be inspired to cultivate more compassion and forgiveness in your life? Check out the two new books in the Effortless Inspiration series below! 

CompassionCompassion is the ability to feel sympathetic towards those who are suffering while desiring to relieve their pain. Imagine what the world would be like if we all experienced compassion on a daily basis!

Recent scientific research has shown that compassionate people tend to be more understanding, less angry, and less stressed than other people, with stronger relationships and even enhanced immune systems. People who live with compassion or show concern for others’ wellbeing also tend to create a more harmonious atmosphere around them. Compassion breeds compassion, leading to more contentment.

This little book, with its modern take on the subject and uplifting inspiration, brings light to a life-changing subject that will appeal to readers around the world. Grab your copy here

ForgivenessTo forgive is to be free. Forgiveness is one of life’s great challenges; it is so difficult to let go of anger and pain once you’ve been hurt. But people who forgive both themselves and others tend to feel more relaxed and open, have less risk of getting stressed or depressed, and experience stronger relationships.

Holding on to past resentments and negative energy tends to cause painful memories to fester in our subconscious, which prevents us from moving forward with joy in life. Learning forgiveness allows us to move on, to create more peace in our lives, and to release ourselves from re-experiencing painful moments.

Tucked within the pages of this book, readers will find insights and inspiration for letting go of pain, cultivating a forgiving heart, and ultimately finding a deeper sense of awareness and peace. Grab your copy here!