I have written quite a bit about gratitude. It is one of the main characteristics of happy people! What is so important about being grateful and thankful?
Sometimes, we think of things we don’t have rather than the blessings and gifts we do have. That can cause us to feel insecure, sad, anxious, discontented, jealous, and lacking. Our society advertises to the part of us that is insecure. We need a certain car, make-up, shoe, vitamin, exercise machine, etc to be who we should be, ought to be, to be more. Well, that kind of scrutiny should come from within. Those people who want to sell us some stuff, even magazines about how to be better at… everything, don’t know you. They just know people and how to hit insecurity buttons.
You know you, what you need, want and “should” be. Gratitude is about recognizing what you are starting with, what your power and tools are to move forward. I work with many people who feel worthless and hopeless with no future. They have tremendous difficulty seeing what they are blessed with, even the small things. One of the tricks with gratitude is to not belittle or demean the blessings. No, “yeah, but,” “so what,” “who cares,” “not really” or any other follow up comment that may totally erase the good thing. It’s still there!
A grateful heart will open you up to new wonderful feelings, ways of seeing the world and relationships. How do you get a grateful heart? How do you find the silver lining? Start with saying Thank You, for anything, and really meaning it.
Gratitude journal: Get a notebook. Everyday, yes, every single one, write down 3 things you are grateful for. They should be different things that you have to think about. Write down why you are grateful for those things. Do this for at least one month. You can continue as long as you would like or just when you need a pick-me-up.
Thank you notes: Write a heart felt thank you note to one person in your life. I would suggest one a day, everyday for 2 weeks or once a week for a year! You can email it, mail it, message it, put it in their lunch box. Make sure they get it, even if it’s on their gravestone.
Practice Gratitude and being Thankful.
I, like many others who work in the therapeutic world, liken life to a journey. The “experience” of life can teach you many things and take you many places. You have opportunities to make major decisions which would change your path. One particular analogy I work with is what happens while strolling on your particular path in life.
Often while we walk, in the life analogy and in reality, we encounter obstacles, small and large. Many are small pebbles, daily decisions, which can be easily tread past. Sometimes the life decisions are larger, likes stones or even boulders. When we encounter a stone, we must decide how we will navigate it. Do we toss it aside or behind us, try to work around or over it, which many require some effort. The stones require some mental effort. Generally if you ignore such a stone and skirt it, you may find yourself facing the same stone later in life. So, stones, boulders, and rocks of various size will fall into your path. You will be required to ponder them and how to manage them in your way.
Many people do not know how to manage such stones, especially younger in life, and just pick them up to move on with life. These stones stay with you. You put them in a kind of “back pack,” I call it. It represents the things that you choose not to see in your past. If you just keep putting stones in there, it gets heavy, really heavy, the longer you carry it around. At some time you will have to take off the pack and go through those stones. Some might go right back in there (Nope, can’t face that now). Others, like resentment about a childhood wrong, an angry parent, bad breakup in high school, divorce, rape, abuse… They need to be addressed. Those stones get heavier with time, especially when you are trying to pretend they are not there. They impact you, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Write a time line. This is a list of events in your life starting from birth. They should be anything big that has happened to you, good or bad. Moving, birth of sibling, parent divorce/death, new school, abuse by neighbor, graduate, married, first full time job, house fire. Get it? Write it all down, as close to chronological order as you can. Now, go back and read it, maybe the next day after you had some time to reflect.
Did you miss anything? Are you intentionally leaving events out? What things cause an emotional response (anger, sadness, irritation)? Maybe some of those things are your rocks. Now, what do you do with that stone?
Here’s are some other posts that would relate to the reflection of your stone collection: Self talk can be a key to your belief about yourself, past trauma and how it impacts you, and the basic of only knowing what you know.
My grandfather passed away last week. It was a good thing. He was 100! Quite a feat in itself. Even better, he was really healthy up until this last year. He was on a steady physical decline for a few months. His mind was as sharp as ever! It was peaceful for him. We said good bye and wished him well.
I, on the other hand, am not feeling so peaceful. I usually help people through this process. I am now on the other side of unavoidable anguish.
Grief is the emotional process one goes through when there are changes in life. We have to grieve what we lose when we change. This can be simple, like moving from Elementary to Junior High. You still have your friends (usually). It is just an adjustment to more classes, teachers, lack of recess. It doesn’t really seem like grief, but it is. You miss things you are not experiencing anymore. The new things can consume you and make the process easier. It could also be a major adjustment, like a family member dying, a new baby, or getting married. We grieve the loss of singledom or coupledom when our family grows.
When we lose something precious and do not have a replacement (which can not happen with a loved one dying), the grieving feels painful. It becomes a process of reconciliation. How does this hole, that once was a person, fit in my life now? How do I reconcile the loss of a grandfather who has always been there. I can not remember a time when he wasn’t part of my life. I don’t grieve for him. I grieve for me. I have to allow the sadness and anger to run through me.
People have different ways of grieving. They rely on God, family, or friends. What really needs to happen is permission. Give yourself permission to have ALL those feelings. Whatever comes with grief, allow it. Feel sadness and cry. Feel angry and yell or punch a pillow. Let it come. The only way to “get past” grief is to travel through it. There is no way to avoid the process. You will just get stuck there. Write your feelings down, create a memory book or page, have a wake for your loss. See grief as the process, adjustment and reconciliation of the changes rather than the loss.
Optimism: Tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the more favorable outcome. (dictionary.com)
Pessimism: the tendency to see, anticipate or emphasize only the bad or undesirable outcomes, results, condition, problems, etc. (dictionary.com)
You can probably identify if you are an optimist or a pessimist. What is the first thought that comes to mind when something bad, or even not so great, happens? Is it “Oh great! This will ruin my whole day. I am depressed.” or “Oh dear. That’s too bad. I’m glad it was not any worse.”
See the difference. One thought can lead to a sour mood and negative attitude and the other leans toward the silver lining with a positive outlook. Both attitudes will change your day. Like I say How you do Anything is How you do Everything. If you tend to see things in a pessimist light, you will be anxious, worrisome and sometimes depressed. Things just never look good. Optimists usually see the brighter side, the upswing, the possible great things to come! They are generally more upbeat, excited, goal oriented and outgoing.
Some people believe they are a “realist” which basically means “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” Realists are pessimists with some hope. Hope that things will not always be terrible, but they still believe they will be terrible. A true realist can see things for what they are without prejudice or personal opinion. It’s harder to do that you think. Your personal world view is all about the perception of the event/situation which come from your self talk and your ongoing tapes derived from childhood and past events.
What makes an optimist?
In “Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman, he refers to pessimist thought as an automatic perception of a setback as “permanent, pervasive and personal: It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything and it’s all my fault.” Whereas an optimist may see the same setback as surmountable, particular to that problem, temporary and relative to others. An optimist can see a situation for what it is, who it is relative to and how it can be improved.
The NUMBER ONE act of an optimist is to take the situation as one instance in time. It does not explode to global proportions. They dispute the negative, pervasive devastation a pessimist might assume. “Wait, does this red light really mean I will be late to work, yelled at by my boss, have to stay late, possibly written up, loose an account….” Probably not. So, what does it mean? You can take a similar situation that has happened in the past to compare the current situation to. Disregard your emotional response, since it might have been exaggerated. What actually happened? When overwhelmed or anxious events, try disputing your own thoughts to replace with more realistic and positive ideas.
You can take an optimism test on Dr. Seligman’s website. There is more information on optimism and happiness.
I am a forward thinker. I am always looking for the next adventure, be it a sports event, family outing, vacation, or how to improve my practice, home or relationships. I need to be moving forward. I have been stuck before. It is the feeling of nothingness, blah, lethargy, ho-hum-itude that is slightly uncomfortable, like sitting in the same place for too long. Yeah, stuck. There are lots of ways to get stuck, in your job, relationship, financial situation, etc. I will be talking about your life. Well, I guess that actually includes everything else.
A lot of people are what I call “survivors.” Survivors are people who merely tolerate life. They have whatever job they can get (if they have a job), put minimal effort into their surroundings, relationships or self. They are just wasting time until it’s over. There is little meaning in life. If you are reading this, you are not one of those people or would like to not be one of those people. You are looking to make a difference! How does that happen? How have I not been on vacation for 5 years, eaten at the same restaurants, same meals, same activities, same, same… You might be bored.
Getting unstuck can be tricky. You are in a rut in life, one you created. So, examine the situation. How is my life? Do I like my job, my relationships, my home, my friends, my hobbies? Literally list it all out. What is good and bad and just okay. What might make things better? Is there something I can do today, or plan, to make some changes? Do I need to shake up the routine, reorganize, plan some different activities, make new friends?
One of the most important questions you might ask would be “Am I in control of my life?” Many people take whatever life throws at them, letting it control them instead of them controlling it. Are you making choices that are yours or do you just roll with the punches? I have an excellent example. A man who never finished high school. He took several construction and manual labor jobs and finally ended up with a home repair gig. He married the first girl he got pregnant, because she was pregnant. He went to work, came home, watched the kid, went to bed. He was miserable. Though, he pretty much has never been much else. He changes and makes decisions when it is forced upon him, like a pregnancy, job loss, etc. He never made a proactive decision. He is not in control. He has no idea what might make him happy, because it just hasn’t happened yet. This is as stuck as you can get.
You might need some help figuring out how to get unstuck. I see a lot of people in my office complaining of feeling nothing. They think they might be depressed because they don’t sleep well, have little energy, are uninterested in doing things, have no motivation and generally unhappy. It might not be depression, you might just be stuck. Find someone to help you out. I have noticed a lot of self help books on the subject too.
We are our worst critic. We scrutinize ourselves relentlessly. We spend more time thinking about how we look and portray ourselves than anyone else. Yep, how much do you think about other people’s appearance, behavior, etc. (That does not include comparing yourself to them) That is about how much they think about you. Usually, fleeting.
How you see your self matters. It is directly related to your self esteem and confidence. It correlates to how much time, effort, and love you think you deserve, from yourself and others. One of the most common symptoms of low self esteem is the fear that if others Truly knew you, all of you, they would leave you, hate you, despise or pity you. So, you keep parts of yourself hidden. You act in a way you think they want from you, not how you might really want to. You withhold things from your self that you deserve: love, attention, nurturing, time. You criticize your decisions, behavior, words and reactions. You give up to others what you should have.
It is a lot of effort for minimal impact. You work very hard to avoid a perceived threat. Believe it or not, people care and love you for who are. No matter what your perceived draw backs are. By giving up the effort for others and giving some back to yourself, which includes giving yourself some slack, you will gain some confidence. One of the hardest parts is figuring out what are doing for yourself and what do you give up. Where is the line? Well, how does it make you feel? Are you resentful and empty after or feel a sense of pride?
Give yourself some slack on the criticism. Give yourself some props on what you accomplish. Give yourself some time and attention. You deserve it.