Why is it when “bad” things happen, we feel “bad,” and when “good” things happen, we feel “good,” making us virtual slaves to the whims of our circumstances? And how can gratitude free us from this oppressive cycle?
In our article The Power of Positive Thinking, one of the tips outlined the importance of arresting negative thoughts and choosing to replace them with positive or empowering ones. Recognizing negative thoughts alone can be a challenge for most. Because your thoughts come to you in your own “voice,” they seem profoundly valid, credible, and justified. Frankly, they simply feel and sound true, and as automatic reactions to situations or events that unfold in your day, you’re not apt to question their veracity. The key is understanding that as long as you allow your circumstances to dictate your thoughts, in turn your emotions and therefore your actions, you are no longer in control of your life; situations and other people are.
This is not at all to suggest that your feelings or emotions are wrong, but it is to dare to believe that you can control how you actually feel about the things that happen in your life whether they’re “good” OR “bad”! Realizing this is an empowering place to be because you are now at the helm of your life, your thoughts being the rudder that steers it. Gratitude is one of the most powerful weapons against negative thinking, for it enables you to choose to see the beauty and goodness in your life, even in the seemingly mundane.
I recently challenged myself to write a list of ten things I was grateful for each day and was blown away at how difficult it was to complete that list every day! Yet, if I were tasked with detailing everything I didn’t like, I would probably run out of room to write it all! However, that is not based in reality; we are surrounded by great things every day, and we take many of those things for granted.
We know how to send a thank you note or card when someone does something kind for us; we can say “thank you” to a stranger in response to him holding open a door for us to walk through; but if asked to sit and think of things we’re grateful for, we’re stumped. Don’t be discouraged. As with any other habit, cultivating a grateful attitude takes practice, and this habit only demands that you choose to be grateful!
Here’s an example of some of the simple ways you can find gratitude in your day. Being grateful that you’re alive to see a new day; that you have a family to love and nurture; that you have a roof over your head and food to eat; that you have a job to go to; that your kids have safely made it through summer and are now in a new grade or even attending school for the first time this fall.
These otherwise uneventful and “small” elements in your day can become the building blocks of your joy! Your gratitude converts ordinary into extraordinary and eliminates the tendency to take life for granted. You begin to see your life in a newer, healthier light simply by being grateful for everything in it. Perception is reality!
You can make this a realistic and attainable goal by making gratitude a staple in your and your family’s lives. And I share with you how in the second part of this article: 6 Tips for Harnessing the Power of Gratitude.