As I sat down earlier to write a blog post, I couldn’t even focus! I was so overwhelmed and frustrated. All I could think was how upset I was and basically everything that was wrong. Casey sweetly encouraged me to take a walk with him. At first, I said, (admittedly with a scowl) “No, I have work to do.” A few minutes went by and I realized I still hadn’t gotten anything done. A walk would help to rejuvenate me, and I needed to take some time to take care of myself. Both emotionally and physically.
As we started to make laps around our community, I began to feel better and my mind started to clear. Then, Casey asked me to name 3 things I was thankful for. So, I did. And to be honest mine were super basic. They were the most obvious things to be thankful for in my life (him and my health both included.) However, he proceeded to name 3 things that weren’t so basic and obvious. And honestly, one of them took me by surprise. He was finding gratitude in something in which I had been finding fault.
He said he was thankful for 2 reliable cars to get us to work and back every day. I immediately thought of our 2nd car that has well over 200,000 miles on it; missing door handle (thanks to a hit and run earlier this year); and his trusty companion that safely and consistently takes him to work and back every single day.
I feel sort of embarrassed to admit I initially was shocked he mentioned that car. I realized that, ever since the handle was knocked off, I have been looking at it with nothing but frustration. Frustrated that someone wouldn’t do the right thing and leave their name. Frustrated that it happened at all. Frustrated that with each of us driving two different directions for work every day, we haven’t had the time to even take it to have the handle replaced.
However, he chooses every day to overlook this and choose gratitude. He is grateful that he has a trusty vehicle to get him to work and back each day. Grateful the door still opens (even with no handle). Grateful that the car has saved us thousands of dollars by continuing to be dependable and reliable. And you know what, I truly am too. I had just been too caught up in the imperfections to realize it.
Gratitude is a Choice
I realized my mindset had been off recently. I was looking at gratitude as a feeling. However, gratitude is a choice. When life is easy, it’s an easy and almost automatic choice. But when our mood is off or something goes wrong, it becomes more difficult to choose gratitude. However, this is when it is most important. Sometimes we have to work to remember the gifts we’ve been given, and choose to view life with joy.
How to Choose Gratitude
It is easier said than done, but we must change our mindsets and choose gratitude on the good and the bad days. Not to mention, sometimes we just need a push to get outside of our own heads.
While one thing might help me choose, you may find another method more effective. So, try to have a running list of what “works for you” to find gratefulness. Here are a few things on my list:
- Keep a gratitude journal. – I’ve done this consistently in the past, though not recently. Even if you don’t do it routinely it can be helpful to change your mindset by jotting down a few things you are thankful for. Or, you can tell a loved one.
- Stop Complaining. – Someone once told me, if you need to vent that’s understandable, but once you tell someone something more than once it becomes a complaint. WOW!
- A few years ago I read the book A Complaint Free World and I highly recommend it. It actually suggested that anytime you say “I wish…” it’s a subtle way of complaining. After reading the book I became much more aware of the words I was choosing and how my thoughts and the words I chose affected the way I felt. The book suggests wearing a special bracelet and moving it from one wrist to the other whenever you catch yourself complaining. The goal is to stop complaining for 21 consecutive days. I’ll be honest, I gave up on the bracelet before I got there! But, it still hugely impacted me and helped me become SO aware of the words I spoke! This book is definitely on my reread list.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity has known psychological benefits. Exercising will help to produce positive endorphins and makes it easier to get our minds on the right track. Sometimes a burst of endorphins is just what we need to work to redirect our minds.
- Spend time outside. If the sun is shining head outside. Whether you are enjoying the benefits of a hike, taking a simple walk, or even just sitting and enjoying nature, your mood is sure to boost!
- Visit or Help Others. One time when I was in high school and going through a rough time, my mom suggested we go visiting for the day. We ended up spending our day visiting some elderly family and friends. At the end of the day we both felt so much better! Listening to their stories and thinking of SOMEONE ELSE was exactly what I needed. My mom commented at the end of the day how much better she felt and it brought to my attention how fulfilling it is to give…especially when it may not be what we think to do first.
- Write a thank you note. If you don’t have time to go visiting sit down for a few minutes and write a family or friend a thank you note. I guarantee you will feel better after you do!
- Prayer or meditation. Both are great ways to cultivate gratefulness. Focus on what you are grateful in either method.
So, next time you are feeling sorry for yourself or “stuck in your own head,” I urge you to go for a walk; think of some things you are thankful for (go outside the box); visit or give to someone who needs it! I guarantee you will soon regain your gratitude for life. As it turns out, there are a multitude of proven benefits of gratitude. In fact, studies have shown it actually makes us healthier, happier, and have better relationships.
How do you choose gratitude?
Make a plan today to choose gratitude. Gratitude is a choice we must choose day in and out. While it will certainly get easier with practice it will always be harder some days. Plan now what you will do next time you find it difficult to choose gratitude to choose it anyway.
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