Be Grateful Out Loud, Self-Care, Week 22

Piglet's gratitude

There is so much to be thankful for. Even in the darkest, hardest places; even when you didn’t choose to be in that hard place. And, by the way, being grateful in the midst of loss and hardship does not diminish those losses nor denigrate the hardship. What gratitude in hard times does do is take your focus off the bad and place it on the good. Being grateful in happy, rich places intensifies the goodness. You can’t go wrong when you’re thankful.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”                 -Oprah Winfrey (and others)

Why say it out loud? We all know that the thoughts in our head are powerful. As we think, so we are. We also know those thoughts can get jumbled up, begin to loop incessantly and we can quickly get confused, sidetracked, not able to determine what is true and what isn’t. When we write our thoughts on paper, they become clearer, we begin to organize them and can judge their veracity. We can see just how crazy they are or how wonderfully true they are. When we share thoughts with someone we trust, it helps us see them for what they are. When expressing thankfulness to another person, it increases the joy in us and also, of course, adds joy to that person’s life. We add benefits to both them and us as well. Double happiness! Also, when we speak out loud, even when we’re alone, the sound of your own voice in your ears takes precedence over the internal thoughts and makes them sit down and shut up. So, in a hard place, saying you’re thankful out loud, pushes the hardness away and gives us relief from the suffering or mental battle that was raging in your head. Relief, even for a few minutes, is well worth the effort to change the course of your thinking.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “Thank You,” that would suffice.”  -Meister Eckhard.

Think about this. When something bad happens, do you sometimes find all the past bad experiences piling on? It’s like they want to be remembered and add to your grief. When we speak something thankful about the situation, we stop those past things in their tracks. Say your cat dies. She was old and declining, but you love your sweet old kitty-cat and you miss her. And you’ll never find another cat as wonderful as she was. And remember your other cat who ran away? And remember when your bird died and how sad you were? And oh yeah, the darling hamster you only had for a year. He was so cute and funny. You really miss him. Maybe I wasn’t meant to enjoy pets. I must not be good enough to have pets. All my cats died and all the birds (all one of them) died suddenly. And… and… and… . STOP!  Change your focus. Your cat was sweet, she loved to snuggle with you. She was beautiful. She had a healthy, long life because of you and added so much joy and comfort to your life. “Yes. I miss my cat but I’m so happy I had my Kitty-kins for so many wonderful years.”

Turning from the sadness and hardship of a situation and turning to the joy/peace/ love that can be found there, makes all the difference. You still miss your Kitty-kins and grieve her passing but you appreciate the goodness and focus on that instead. And, isn’t it true? If you aren’t vigilant, all sorts of negative thoughts are more than happy to jump into a hard situation to make it worse, globalizing it into something that’s not true.

Grateful people have more and better relationships. Being grateful improves physical health . It improves mental health and enhances empathy while reducing aggression Grateful people sleep better and have higher, healthy self-esteem. And gratitude increases mental strength, enabling us to overcome stresses and traumas better. (From Psychology Today article, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude”, by Amy Morin, LCSW, psychotherapist and author. https://www.psychologytoday.com>blog )

Gratitude improves clarity by stopping the chatter and focusing your mind on positive things. It helps keep you calm. It’s a simple thing but it’s an incredibly powerful tool for taking good care of ourselves. “The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits”, says Christian Jarrett in his Science of Us blog.  (From a fascinating article, “Gratitude Physically Changes Your Brain, New Study Says”, by Jessica Stillman, http://www.inc.com). I might have to do an entire blog based solely on this article!!

If we walk with God, we have assurance that some way, some how, He will at some point, turn the worst of situations into something good. When we express thankfulness, we are agreeing with God Almighty.

Need a little help? Write a little sign for yourself: “I have so much to be thankful for.”

Try it. Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Say those things out loud, either to a friend or just into the atmosphere around you. They don’t have to be “fancy” or “special”. They can be as simple as being grateful for your comfortable bed or a roof over your head. Or you might be thankful for that stranger who pushed your dead car off the road and waited with you for the tow truck. The dead car and tow truck? Not so great. The kindness of a stranger? The best!!

And one more thing: Remember that gratitude is always our choice. It’s up to me to take responsibility for my attitude. I am much better off, happier, when I choose gratitude and express it.

I’m sure you’ve had experience with expressing your gratitude and how it made you feel better and the other person feel better and just changed the world around you. Please share your observations of expressed gratitude in the comments. Do you feel like it’s a good tool to add to your toolbox?

Thanks so much for reading.

Until next week, God bless you good!

 

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Waiting

 

 

Waiting is a challenge.

I was stalwart in refusing to embrace Christmas until Thanksgiving was properly celebrated (however, I might have been on a Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas mix binge for a couple of weeks… just maybe). I defended Thanksgiving, determined to observe and celebrate the bountiful blessings we enjoy. I really felt- and still feel- that giving thanks is important. Important enough to push everything else aside and really embrace gratitude.
Thanksgiving was worth the wait. It was almost all I hoped for. There were a few disappointments involved but the joy of family and food and fun, the blessing of fellowship and gratitude was all good.
Hope, like waiting, is challenging.

I think hope and waiting are related. After all, they both involve something yet to come. We wait in hope but are sometimes a little afraid to hope too much, afraid of being disappointed. I mean, after waiting for a hope and then not having it meet high expectations, can really send us into a tailspin if we aren’t careful. But keeping our eyes on the over-all source of blessings and purposely enjoying what we do have enables us to embrace those right-now-blessings. “… my hope is in You.” (Psalms 39:7).

So, yes. Thanksgiving was great!
Now suddenly, I’m beyond ready to put up lights and trees and decorations. I want to buy presents for everyone and give to those in need. I’m excited for our family time and heartbroken for so many people affected by floods and fires and violence. I cry for the sad but happy things bring tears too. I cry at memories of dear ones gone. I tear up over familiar music that touches my heart and encourages my soul. I cry at memories of tough times lived through, and cry in gratitude for being on the other side. And through it all, I wait. We wait. Like a little kid, if left to myself, I’d probably explode, or implode, or both at once.
So, we enter another season of waiting. I’m ok with waiting for Christmas. I’m not at all “ready”. I want to enjoy the wonder, the emotions, the preparation. I especially want to prepare. Prepare my heart. Prepare the house with decorations. Prepare gifts for giving! Prepare food for sharing! The thing is, am I preparing with busy-ness or am I preparing in the Hope of celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Is the preparation overtaking the waiting with hurry? My goal is to wait and prepare in peace.

I’m seeing all kinds of paradoxes in waiting. One thing is sure, though. Waiting is inevitable. And I believe we are meant to wait in hope; wait, abiding in the Lord and trusting Him that whatever we are awaiting will be good.