NOT a Gratitude Diary
I'd like to share my personal gratitude method and invite you to implement it in your own life. It has led me to feeling more joy and peace throughout my day, and has lent me a calmer nervous system and better sleep.
Friends and family will often rub my back and confusedly joke about how flexible and knot-free my shoulders are. They'll say, "Meaghan must have ZERO stress in her life!" This is not true; I have plenty of stressors in my life that would have easily caused me to crumble and build up knots in my shoulders. The difference is that I've started actively practicing gratitude on a moment to moment basis by simply tracking my thoughts. By paying attention to my thoughts, I remember that I have control over my what goes on in my head, I can relief myself of self-inflicted suffering (yes, self-inflicted) in a 'stressful' situation. Suffering, by the way, is a term I often use to describe any moment when inner peace is disturbed. With consistent effort, we can retrain our brains to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
Switch the thought to "thank you" 100x
Here's how to practice avoiding suffering every single day:
When you feel something uncomfortable stirring up inside you (e.g., frustration, anger, sadness, doubt), that is disturbing your inner peace, pause.
Notice the thing about reality that you are resisting (remember, it's not the truth that hurts, it's wanting the truth to be different): did you just lose your favorite apartment? are you stuck in bumper to bumper traffic? did your sandwich order come out wrong? (You might be saying to yourself, my problems are much bigger than these examples, but start with the small things. We create suffering around the silliest things without even noticing it).
Switch the complaining thought to "thank you." Say "thank you" over and over and over again in your head until you start to believe it. It happens much quicker than you might expect, and very soon you'll be able to start listing things in that very moment that you are grateful for: Thank you for the privilege of being able to search for an apartment at all; thank you for this car that magically flies through space and gets me where I need to go; thank you for the opportunity to even buy myself lunch. If you can't come up with anything, these ones hardly ever fail: Thank you for this body that allows me to move; thank you for this heartbeat that reminds me that I'm alive; thank you for the sun that I can count on to rise for me and everyone every single day.
Watch those previous heavy feelings dissolve and lighter emotions emerge.
Result (Mental & Physical): With peace in your heart, you can move forward with composure, clarity, and creativity. You work with your reality rather than fighting against it, thus freeing yourself from inner discomfort, and can in turn share your gifts and be of service to others. Your body can return to it's natural state (parasympathetic nervous system) where your endocrine system (hormones), digestive system, and all other bodily systems harmoniously function.
If the situation feels way too daunting, try at least asking yourself: what I am learning right now? Remember:
You ALWAYS Have A Choice
We can't control what happens to us -- all we can do is control our reaction to what happens to us. It's a relief, actually, to realize that we have the power to choose peace within our own hearts in every situation. Ask yourself:
- Do I choose to experience peace of mind or do I choose to experience conflict?
- Do I choose to be a love finder or a fault finder?
Try It for one day
Just start by trying to go ONE DAY without complaining about anything -- in the morning, say to yourself "I commit to not complaining about anything today. And when I hear myself complain, I will switch the thought to 'thank you' on repeat until I believe it."
And, when you're feeling your lowest, and like there's nothing in this world to be grateful for, go outside and don't come back in until you've found something beautiful:
I love you all.
Gratitude for my dear teacher Stephanie Snyder for teaching me the THANK YOU mantra.