Last post I told you about some people I interviewed that had every reason to be negative and jaded about life. You will be able to read all the interviews in my upcoming book Living the Dream. Right now I will tell you their challenges included miscarriages, abuse of physical, emotional and sexual nature. They had major health challenges. Their families were killed and they were forced to flee countries due to a civil war. Despite, and in some cases because of these challenges, they are some of the most positive people you will ever meet. I asked myself, and them, how is that possible?
The secret was they were all able to control their thoughts and thus controlled their lives. How did they do it? Honestly, they all had their own unique ways which you will be able to read about in my book. For today’s post, however, I am going to share one thing they all had in common. If you add this one thing to your life it will do a great deal to help you overcome whatever challenge you have in life. We are going to look at what that common trait was and some fun ways to use it in our own lives.
You may have guessed from the picture that the common trait that all of these people shared was gratitude. In challenges far greater than I had ever faced, each one of them found reasons to be grateful. If they can do it facing the kind of challenges we mentioned above, surely we can utilize gratitude to take control of the thoughts and challenges in our own daily lives.
Finding something to be grateful for in a challenging situation can be difficult, especially in the beginning. Like any other muscle, our gratitude muscle will grow stronger with use. In the beginning, however, it helps to have a few tools and tips to help foster a sense of gratitude. My advice when diving into this is to resist the temptation to attempt to change everything at once. Remember, you are trying to change thought patterns you have built up over years. Pick one topic and start slow. Not only will it be less difficult, but it will actually increase your chances of success. Let us look at a few ways in which to start infusing our lives with more gratitude.
The first method is pretty straight forward and works well for difficult areas of our lives. Pick an area of your life that does not bring you joy. For our example let us say that you are not crazy about your job. At a time where you are not otherwise occupied, such as driving in your car or at the job you dislike so much, grab a pen and piece of paper. Next, get comfortable. Maybe make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea if that is your thing. Put on some relaxing or fun music. Now begin to think of everything about your job in which you are grateful for. You may find your mind a little reluctant at first, but stick with it. Maybe you don’t feel your job pays you what you would like, but be grateful it does pay you. It may not allow you to take that vacation to Fiji, but it does allow you to keep the lights on. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and be active. It introduces you to different people. Sure, they may not all be perfect people, but it allows you to be social. It also allows you to practice and strengthen your skills of being hopeful and positive. Just like muscles, these things only grow and get stronger when they are challenged. When you have a pretty good list going put it in a jacket pocket or in the car. Somewhere you can take it with you. Next time you are on the way to work look at and review this list. Read it right before you walk in the door. It will at least help balance the frustration.
The next way to put more gratitude in your life can be looked at as a game to play. I do this one on the way to work as well and find it puts my mind in a great place before I get there. As I drive along I look for as many things as I can that I love. This can be the color of a house I am driving by, or the humor behind someone’s personalized plates on the car ahead of me. Sometimes it is a nice dog walking down the street, or a fun jacket someone waiting for the bus is wearing. A good practice is to say these things out loud. “Wow! I love that jacket!” or “What a fun color to paint a house/door/car!” Even hearing yourself say these things out loud can put you in a better frame of mind.
These are just two ideas for increasing the feeling of gratitude in your life. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. There are a million ways to add and strengthen the gratitude you already have in your life. I encourage you to try them all. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to have control of your thoughts.