“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ― Melody Beattie
I'd like to think for a moment that for all that Lyme disease has stolen from my life it's also given back more than I ever anticipated. When the forest fire burns down all you hold dear in life you have several ways to process your grief and continue on. You can sit and play your broken record repeating over again and again all that's been lost, all that once was, and all that's been a struggle. No one would blame you and no one would judge. We've all been there! There is most certainly a time and a place for our grief and our pain to be processed. We must not lose sight of the good despite the challenges in our life though. We must relentlessly search near and far, high and low, to find the good even when it may be pouring out and the lightning seems to strike a little too close to home.
It is often our perspective before we enter into the storms that determines how we react, how we process, and how we respond to these trials and tribulations. Imagine entering a triathlon knowing you will push and test your body to it's absolute limits. Now imagine doing so without any formal physical training or proper nutrition....you can envision the outcome and the opportunity a dream long gone. Our minds may function differently than our bodies yet they require the mental stamina for the daily cocktail of stress, frustration, stimuli, and emotions that filter in and through it.
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." Matt 12:33
The work we put into our mental health on the front end will pay dividends on the back end. That negative self talk that tears you down, that nagging fear you can't let go of, and that worry regarding finances and health begin to eat away at you slowly. I'd like to propose an idea to stop those thoughts in their tracks. When dogs begins to stray from the pleasant trail ahead and meander to the festering garbage nearby we can quickly yank them back and begin to lead them in the way to go. In the same way when we perceive our own self destructive mental thoughts we must purpose to stop them in their tracks and then to replace them by reorienting them where they should go. We do this by purposing to "think on things that are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Phil 4:8
This is an active and very purposeful process. It's not a sit back and let things unfold laissez faire approach. Rather this is a roll up your sleeves, pull back the curtains, and take a deep look into where your mental thoughts naturally wander approach. Being mindful of this process is the first step to clear the path for change. A slow transformation takes place where the muddied thoughts or the occasional lie we often speak to ourselves are then replaced by gratefulness, truthfulness, and subsequently peace and appreciation. We begin to awaken to a clearer and brighter perspective on our life with fresh eyes that look for the good rather than the bad. We begin to see roses instead of thorns, opportunities rather than difficulties, and blessings instead of curses.
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." Alphonse Karr
Our minds fills with thoughts, our thoughts determine our attitude, and our attitude affects every facet or our relationships (and health). The one affects the other like a domino that begins to topple over with just a slight adjustment and change. The result of this domino affect....deep and lasting joy and contentment. Gratitude has a beautiful way of making the little that we do posses seem like an over abundance of blessing spilling over and out. How does this look practically? Below are a few helpful recommendations for prioritizing positivity and gratitude in your life to help you change your perspective and change your reality.
Step One: Mindfulness
I like to think of mindfulness as the gateway to lasting change. We can only begin the process when we first begin to be aware of the thoughts at hand. It's a prerequisite for what will come after. Slowing down and checking in with yourself throughout the day helps to gauge the barometer of the thoughts swirling around in the mind. Becoming aware of the negative thoughts, destructive self talk, and perspective begins to clear the fog that's been hovering over you.
Step Two: Termination
You've already done the hard task of slowing down to be honest with yourself and your minds natural proclivity to wander to this and that. Now where do we go from here? This is the time to take that leash and yank it back. Yank it hard...and sometimes again and again. Regain control by stopping the negative thoughts in their tracks and guiding them back on the trail ahead.
Step Three: Replace
We've worked on mindfulness and termination of destructive thoughts so where do we go from here? It's not enough just to stop our negative talk in it's tracks. This is the time to replace them with thoughts that feed our minds and our souls. We begin to think on those blessings in our lives, the truths that are unshakeable, and the opportunities for growth.
Step Four: Meditation
While you may be envisioning yourself sitting on your yoga mat reciting your blessings I assure you this isn't the direction I'm headed. Rather take all those truths, blessings, and abundance of good in your life and choose to let your mind swim deeply in them. This is the place to really jump off that diving board and sink deep into all that matters. Spend time really appreciating all you have and all you love.
Practical ways to cultivate gratefulness in your life:
Begin to journal all that you are grateful for
Verbalize out loud what things you know to be true
Tell others you know and love what your are grateful and appreciative about in them
Focus on the opportunities that your trials and difficulties may bring to you and others
Write thank you letters to others expressing your gratitude
Surround yourself with others that express gratitude
Slow down and notice the beauty in different situations