A global pandemic. Social unrest. A contentious election year. Is it possible to be grateful in this environment? YES! Actually, the stressors make it even more imperative! Our ultimate goal as humans, for our children and ourselves, is to flourish. Gratitude is the number one way to shift our focus from negative to positive and facilitate growth in our lives. It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s not always easy.
How can we be grateful when it seems like everything is falling apart around us? In fact, this is THE time to Practice Gratitude. Those two words should always be together because gratitude is an exercise. Gratitude can be thought of as a muscle that we can strengthen with daily practice. When we think of something to be grateful for it shifts our focus from negative thoughts to positive thoughts. When we do it often enough, it can change the wiring in our brain and make it a habit. Unlike many other routines in our lives, gratitude is extremely healthy and positively impacts our physical, mental, and emotional health.
In a world where we can’t always choose what happens to us, we can take our personal power back in our thoughtful response. When everything feels out of control, we do have control over at least one thing, our thoughts. When we take a moment to actually think about what we think about, we can bring ourselves to the present moment. This, by the way, is where life is happening. The majority of our thinking every day, however, is about what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. But, in reality, life is happening right here, right now! If our thoughts are not in the present moment, we lose the ability to thoughtfully respond to what’s happening in our lives. Then we find ourselves reacting to events and losing our personal power.
Evolution has woven a negative bias into our DNA. This is why the majority of our thoughts are negative. Cavemen are a good example of this. It was the caveman who scanned constantly for a threat, like a saber-toothed tiger, who lived to pass down his genes. We still have that negative focus and we have to be aware of it in order to overcome it. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually designed to keep us safe, but we need to be aware of it to overcome it.
The latest neuroscience tells us that negative events are held in our brains like velcro and positive ones bounce off like teflon. So we know that every one of us has work to do to turn that around. Practicing gratitude is the key to helping us shift our focus to the positive. You can start this month by joining the Choose Love Movement’s 30 Days of Gratitude. Every day for the entire month of November Choose Love is offering daily posts that will focus on how you can live a more fulfilling life through gratitude and Choosing Love every day even when it seems impossible. It will culminate on #GivingTuesday (December 1) where Choose Love will present a special night of self-care and ways to practice being present and grateful.
Remember, it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us happy! Research tells us that practicing gratitude improves our health and well-being, helps us cultivate better, more meaningful relationships, and enhances our moods. Gratitude increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety and depression, and makes us happier. Perhaps, most importantly in these times, gratitude enhances optimism and feelings of hope.
Especially in our current environment, we can easily find ourselves falling down a spiral of negative thinking. Our thoughts impact our beliefs which in turn affect our reality. We can change our thoughts and change our perception of our reality into one that is more positive. When we do this, opportunities open up around us and we’re happier and more productive.
There is always something to be grateful for. Even with the loss of my son, Jesse, I could be sad and mourn his loss (which I do periodically) or rejoice in the time we had together and the tremendous influence and impact he made on my life. When all seems lost, we have our breath and each day that offers another opportunity for us to choose love. In fact, there are many ‘micro-moments of joy’ happening all around us, every day, but the sad part is most of us are usually too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to notice them.
Here is a challenge for you. Practice being present and noticing these joyful moments. They’re not momentous occasions. They’re everyday occurrences that you might miss, like sitting down to a warm cup of coffee and noticing the steam rising, the warmth of the liquid in your throat, and the deep roasted taste. For me, the other day, it was the last rose of summer in my garden. Normally I might have noticed, given a little smile, and marched ahead to my next task. Yesterday, practicing gratitude for this micro moment of joy, I stopped, put my phone and mail down, and walked over to the bush. I thanked it for its beauty all summer and stooped to bury my nose in its petals. I picked the flower and put it in a vase on my desk so that I could enjoy it along with all the people I virtually connect with every day. I ask you: what’s your ‘micro-moment of joy’ today? Please share with us #micromomentofjoy
Thank you for Choosing Love!