Do you ever feel like there is so much bad stuff happening both personally and in our country that it feels hard to find something good to dwell on? Does it seem like every time you read, hear or watch the news it’s just one awful thing after another?
No doubt there are a lot of troubling things happening for people personally, relationally, and in our community. And the landscape of our country certainly has some major challenges. Globally things are not faring any better.
The bad news causes our emotional brain to be on high alert moving us toward living in a constant state of stress and tension from being in our sympathetic nervous system; fight, flight or freeze, which is a mechanism that we are designed for- however we are built for intermittent spikes of “alert-danger”. Any sign of a threat or even a thought of a perceived threat can and does provoke a flood of stress hormones.
Conversely, when we practice gratitude, we are in a calm parasympathetic nervous system state and our emotional brain, our amygdala in particular says, “no threat detected, chill out.” And this allows us to enjoy being in a calm and relaxed state.
Mentally, emotionally and relationally, practicing gratitude has numerous health benefits. Those benefits extend to our physical health and wellbeing as well.
Which is why we have to LOOK for the good stuff, and then chew on it.
Even in the midst of pain and difficulties, it is imperative to our mental and emotional health as well as our quality of life that we spend some minutes of our day focused on the things we do have that we can be grateful for.
If you are finding that too much of your life is being lived in sympathetic state, then now is the time to begin to turn that around. We are created to live enjoying the freedom of feeling calm and at ease, with only occasional spikes of potential threat. Our body and brain can handle that pretty well (depending on the circumstance of course.)
If you are ready to say I want to improve my mood, attitude, outlook, and enjoy my life more, here’s a few ways to get started .
1. Start and Keep a Journal. Each morning upon awakening, consider three things (people, material things, nature, relationships, health… etc. ) that you are genuinely grateful for. Write them down.
2. Begin to Train Yourself to Be on the Lookout. In other words, start noticing and appreciating the little things that you can be appreciative of – maybe your partner gets your coffee made each morning, or you wake up to a little ones beautiful smiling face, or the cat purring in your ear! Notice the little things that put a smile on your face.
3. At the End of the Day. Record three things that occurred in the day that you are grateful for. Consider what each of those things meant for you and how they affected your day in a good way.
By beginning to practice this until it naturally becomes habit, you can likely enjoy lowered blood pressure, breathing more deeply and actually enjoying your life more. So many things happening in the world that are beyond our control. Start focusing your energy on taking control of the things you can!