Swirling Vortexes of Gratitude (aka How to Feel Better Faster)
This has been a helluva year.
Maybe your experience has been different, but for myself (and most of the people I know), this year has been a lot. In so many different ways. Some good, some not at all.
Throw some upcoming holidays in the mix, running a business, trying to have a semi-firm grasp on what’s happening in the world at any given time, and drinking enough water, and the cold truth is this:
A lot of us are feeling stressed out.
I definitely have my days, and I’m guessing you do too. Because we’re human. And because 2018.
By the way, before I go any farther, I need to say this. While I think gratitude is important, and mindset is crucial regardless of who you are, I also know that right now there is some serious shit going on in the world that goes beyond just stressed out.
This is not for that. Although I think it’s a great tool, and you should definitely give it a shot, I’d never be naive enough to feel that it’s a solution to all stress. It’s just that - a great tool.
One thing I’ve learned about myself over the last couple of years is that I’m about as good at celebrating what’s going right as my mini Yorkie is at reciting Hamlet. (Which is not great, in case you’re overly optimistic about canine talent)
Even though I logically know that paying attention to what I’ve got going for me is better for my mental health than constantly noticing the bad, it’s still a struggle.
And having a gratitude practice is crucial.
I’m all for them. In theory at least.
Every now and then I decide I’m going to start a gratitude journal, or make it a point to write down at least three things that have gone well for me every night in some lovely notebook.
Sometimes I even make it a habit for 2 or 3 days in a row.
But inevitably the novelty wears off.
I have a particularly good day and don’t feel the need to write it down, and boom - off the wagon I fall, cracking my skull on a grumpy rock on the way down.
Maybe that sounds familiar? With everything else on our lists, it’s really hard to make time for one more activity on a regular basis, no matter how beneficial.
Here’s the thing though… what we focus on expands.
Only thinking about what’s irritating us, what hasn’t happened, or what we’d like to change can have the effect of bringing even more of that into our lives.
It can also make us feel like crap about what we do have.
Focusing on our wins, what’s going right, and how we’ve shown up for ourselves today (one of my favorite new questions!) has the opposite effect.
So what do you do when a daily gratitude practice eludes you?
Give sudden gratitude storms a try instead.
What’s that, you say?
It’s a practice I came up with during a particularly blah day, during which I had (incorrectly) decided everything and nearly everyone sucked royally.
The entire gist of it is this… when you’re feeling like you have nothing to be grateful for, or that everything is going against you, do a little mental scan for one thing you can be thankful for.
I’m thankful I have comfy pants.
I’m thankful my partner did the dishes.
I’m thankful for a roof over my head.
It can be anything.
The point is that once you’ve thought of the first thing, you can more easily think of a second, then a third, and so on.
One thought leads to another, which leads to a swirling vortex of gratitude
Every time I’ve tried this, without fail, I’ve found myself five minutes later thinking of all the good in my life.
Which by the way, makes it almost impossible to simultaneously think about how much everything sucks. Boom.
Are you thinking this sounds stupidly simple? Good, because it sort of is. That’s the beauty of it.
Our brains operate on something called a negativity bias.
I’m not a scientist, so do your own research, but my understanding of it is this: To assist in our survival, our brains constantly scan our surroundings for shit that might negatively affect us.
We’re drawn to noticing the bad in our world for our own safety.
Looking for the good helps rewire our brains.
The whole purpose of a gratitude practice is to train your brain to spot the good things around you. Because once you start to notice the good it becomes easier to see it.
It’s like one of those fuzzy sailboat pictures we all stared at with weird squinty eyes in the 90s.
So, I encourage you to try creating your own gratitude storm next time you catch yourself noticing the worst in everything.
Ask yourself what one thing you can be grateful for, or to mix it up a little try to think of a few ways you’ve shown up for yourself today.
Let me know how it works!