Last week was my birthday. Typically, I like to celebrate every birthday as I always feel it's an important part of celebrating life - regardless of age. It is usually lots of fun!
I went to school, had a lovely day at work, my students made very sweet cards and were very thoughtful throughout the day.
I arrived home in the afternoon to find that my wonderful husband was taking me for a massage and then dinner. Then I discovered that both of my bank cards and my license had been stolen the day before from my car. Yep. Unlucky.
It was the final straw, so to speak. I was angry and upset and I let it get in the way of the celebrations. I struggled to focus on the fact that I had had a lovely day and the evening was being spent with the best person in the world to me. I spent my time focusing on what I had lost.
Here is the irony of it all - the previous two days I had spent teaching my students about the difference between emotions and feelings. I explained that emotions are physical and they are the same for everyone but our feelings are in the mind. Feelings help give meaning to our experiences so we can choose how we want to feel. We can choose how we want to respond to the emotions we feel. It all depends on what we choose to focus on.
Except...I was not practising what I teach! I shared my experience with my students and they reminded me of what I needed to do and what I teach them daily! I also learned that I have to be very conscious of the fact that when things don't go smoothly in life, I need to continue focusing on everything I have. As it is alreay enough.
Unfortunate Events and their Lessons
Bad things happen to good people all the time. It is just the way life goes. It is unlucky, unfortunate and sometimes downright miserable. But if we believe that life is happening FOR us and not TO us, then we understand that there is always something for us to learn and grow from. Sure, we can ignore the lessons but ultimately lessons repeat and show up in our lives in different ways until we learn them. The sooner we learn the lesson, the better off we are!
What consumes the mind controls your life. So if all we are doing is thinking about the people or situations that wronged us or let us down or disappointed us then that is what is going to be in control of how our life plays out. The more we focus on things that are not in our control, the more pain we find ourselves in.
Practising Gratitude - ALL the time
Often we find it so much easier to be grateful when things are going well in our lives. But when life is tough or challenging, that's when the practice of gratitude really matters and that is usually the hardest time. Life is about learning and growth. Gratitude helps us to see that what we have right now is already enough! Yes....we can be grateful when everything in life is sunny and rosy and happy. But real growth and sense of character shine through when you can practise gratitude when life is throwing you curve balls and you are having to pick yourself up and trudge through the madness and chaos of the current chapter you are in.
Emotions are powerful and they are how we live and navigate our way through life. They are powerful things. But if we give in to every emotion we have, every moment we have them life is going to become painful and messy. Emotions are real, they are a physical response in our body but how we choose to navigate our way in life with them and what we choose to name the feeling is completely up to us. I could have looked at my experience as a lesson or I could have felt the pain of being taken advantage of by opportunists and let that spoil the joy of celebrations. You know which one I did, right?!
Happy People vs Grateful People
It is not happy people who are grateful and thankful. It is grateful people who are happy. No matter the situation we are in, being grateful for what we have and where we are at today helps to make us conscious of all that is good in our life. We can be happy and grateful when things are looking good in life. But to be grateful and happy when the proverbial poop is hitting the fan...well that is where true happiness lies.
The struggle ends when gratitude begins
When we start focusing on what we already have in abundance and stop focusing on what we are missing or don't have in life, we lessen the pain and the struggle in life. If we stop chasing extraordinary moments in order to seek out happiness and realise that it's right in front of us every single moment of every day and we pay attention, and we practise gratitude from those moments, that is where life begins.
Reshaping our Brain
We can rewire our thinking by practising a task repeatedly. Gratitude is no different. Gratitude changes our brain by firing positive emotions and experiences into new neural pathways. The more we practice appreciating the good around us, the better we get at feeling and thinking positively. Expressing the gratitude we have creates a positive feedback loop in our brains that helps us to become more stress-resilient, flexible, optimistic, and happy humans.
Changing old Feelings
It's easy for us to stay stuck in old resentments because they validate our pain. Gratitude is the interrupter of the negative language loops that we have in our heads. We can spend our time feeling hurt or holding a grudge and hold onto negative emotions but often we find the result from that is us being in pain and not the other party. Gratitude can help soften our negative emotions of annoyance, hurt, or disappointment and give us a new perspective. It helps us by learning to become more self-aware and learning how to handle challenges with others and situations in our future.
Fear is hardwired into our brains. Our mind is designed to keep us safe because back in the caveman days it needed to! Far too often, we allow the emotion of fear to move into the feelings of worry, hopelessness and anxiety. Shifting our attention back to gratitude shifts our consciousness and focus back to the good stuff that is happening right now. It helps us to think more clearly and it also helps us to self regulate our fear response. It allows our body and mind to have the ability to be more relaxed and hopeful instead of anxious and worried.
Armed for the Struggle
We all face moments of struggle because it is a part of life. Practising gratitude helps us to find our inner strength within that we can call upon when life feels overwhelming. It helps to redirect our thinking from negative to positive, helps us stay in the present moment, gives us a new capacity for self-compassion, and keep us moving forward. Gratitude can help us to reach out to others in the struggle and ask for help.
If you want to find happiness, find gratitude - in every situation of your life.
Until next week....have a wonderfully joyful week.
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