Gratitude Makes a Difference

I have decided to put this blog post under all  of my sections because I believe that gratitude will improve the quality of our lives in so many ways.

It is amazingly easy to notice and then fixate on all the things that are not going the way we think they are supposed to go in our lives.  I can start my day off on a bad note if I don’t approve of the weather that is happening, or if my hair has a different idea than I do about how it should look that day, or if I have run out of my favorite type of cereal.  As you can see, almost anything has the potential to throw my day off.  My mind has a definite opinion of what should happen in order for me to be happy.

What I have come to see is that, amazingly, I’m not in charge of life.  Chances are, you aren’t either.  Oh, sure, there are some things we can control such as our behavioral choices, but most of life is out of our control.  That can be very disconcerting to realize.  However, we can choose how we look at our life.  We say that some people see a cup as 1/2 full & others see it as 1/2 empty.  It seems to me that, at any given time, there is an equal amount of positive stuff happening  and negative stuff happening.  We now understand that the brain has an innate tendency to have a bias to focus on the negative things as a survival mechanism.

I believe that we need to consciously offset that bias toward negativity by going out of our way to notice what we are grateful for.  Something as simple as stopping to really notice, for example, the big, beautiful tree that graces our home with shade in the summer.  Instead of walking right by it with our mind full of thoughts about what we have to do in the future, to stop & look up into those branches that are covered with leaves or needles and feel gratitude right there in that moment.  Does it really change anything?  For me, it does.  It stimulates a nice, warm feeling inside me.  I might follow that up by noticing the beautiful red flowers that are blooming next to my front door and then feel gratitude for them.

What if you were grateful for your lunch and your children and your partner and your vehicle and your ability to read this article and your favorite chair and your source of income and your legs that carry you around?  That might be a good start to adding some pleasant feelings to your day without having to go out to buy anything.

As a matter of fact, I recommend starting a gratitude journal where, at the end of the day, you write down at least 2 new things that you noticed that day that you were grateful for.  As I wrote above, it’s the nature of the brain to notice what you don’t like.  Why not go out of your way to balance that natural tendency to feel gratitude for all the blessings that we normally take for granted.

We all can take conscious responsibility for the quality of our life by inviting gratitude in.

Slowing Down to the Speed of Life

We have sped through our lives. We’ve tried to “fast forward” ourselves. As a child we couldn’t wait to be older than we were. When my grandson, Alex, turned 5, he told me, “All my life I’ve been waiting to be 5!”

We’ve wished away years of our lives by holding out for different conditions in order to be happy:
-“When I graduate and get a job, then I’ll be happy.”
-“When I find the perfect mate, then I’ll be happy.”
-“When I lose ___ pounds, then I’ll be happy.”
The assumption is that in the intervening time, we will have no choice except to be unhappy.

At some mysterious point, most of us begin to say, “Whoa! Wait a minute. I’m getting older. Maybe it’s not so great and wonderful to be turning 27” (or whatever age it might be). Just as we change our minds and decide we don’t really want to race ahead, we really begin to notice that every year seems to be speeding by at an ever increasing pace.

Everything seems to be a blur. There’s never enough time to get things done at home or at work.

And then at some even later point in life, we find ourselves saying another “Whoa! Maybe there really isn’t going to be time to get everything done in this lifetime!”

This can be a real turning point that invites us to become more discerning about what is truly important to us. Do we really need to keep up with all the Joneses in our lives or do we say, ” I have enough things.”

Perhaps quality time with those we love takes on new significance. We know how short life is because more and more family members and friends are dying way too early. We want to do things that are meaningful for us:

Perhaps we go out of our way to smile more.
Perhaps we really stop to smell the roses.
Perhaps we try to extend kindness to strangers.
Perhaps we find ways to volunteer our time or give our money to
those who have less than we.
Perhaps we just allow ourselves to totally soak in the joy of
being with our grandchildren.

Try this:

Slow yourself down by taking a few deep breaths. Invite any areas of tension in your body to relax and let go.
(Notice that everything slows down when you bring yourself into the present moment in this way.)
When you relax and slow down you can think more clearly.
Ask yourself, “At this point in my life, what do I would I like to be of utmost importance to me? What do I no longer need to be doing? How can I make this happen?

You might need to come back to these questions every so often to revise the answers.