In the midst of struggle, I often lose sight of things that are right in front of my face. I spiral into dark places and begin to feel that old negativity bias firing up and getting ready to lead me off into places best left behind.
Today, I woke up with a hint of that energy and then ran across an article by psychologist Homaira Kabir in which she talks about that very thing. She then recommends writing a “gratitude letter” to someone – a true, honest expression of your gratitude for that person and for what they bring to your life.
Gratitude is a strange thing. Many people – even some I know well – still roll their eyes (either literally or metaphorically) when I talk about the power of gratitude. For some, it sounds like a woo woo New Age concept, the idea that you can quite literally rewire your neurons by repeated patterns of positive thought.
I won’t go into the reams and reams of peer-reviewed scientific research proving that very thing. It’s all out there for those who truly need scientific validation. I always smile a little when science finally “proves” what intelligent people have known since practically the dawn of time. But whether you care about the data or not, I can tell you that repeated thought patterns will indeed create powerful neural pathways and will dictate the “path of least resistance” for your emotions.
And remember – emotions lead to thoughts which lead to actions. If you can repattern your emotional reactions/responses then you are the road to changing everything.
All of this is a drasty preamble leading to this:
No matter what is happening in the world or in my own mind, I can always find time to stop and focus on gratitude.
I cannot speak for anyone else but myself, but for me the concept of gratitude is – and needs to be – intensely personal. Of course I am grateful when good things happen in the world, but my daily focus on the concept of gratitude – particularly what I choose to publish every morning on my Facebook feed – is all about me.
I learned long ago that human experience and the way we react/respond to it are quite subjective. What appears painful to one is not to another. What appears perfect in my eyes may be quite the opposite to another. It’s all relative – pain, happiness, longing, joy, despair, ecstasy. Gratitude is also quite subjective and relative.
For me, it’s vital that I never get into a space of comparing myself to others and then editing how I express my emotions because I am saying things like, “I don’t have the right to feel bad when so-and-so has such a horrible life and mine is not so bad.” Or “I should not focus on something as mundane as this small thing that makes me happy when there are so many awful things going on in the world that should have my attention right now.”
There’s a whole lot of “ought” and “should” going on in my judgemental brain when I have thoughts like those.
No – for me today the point of this post is to reaffirm the absolute importance of expressing clear, personal gratitude whenever possible. It’s important to express it to myself, but it’s also important to express it to other people and – frankly – to the Universe (aka, God, Goddess, Allah, Buddha, Christ, Great Spirit, or Whatever You Choose To Call It).
And taking a cue from Homaira Kabir, today I am going to begin a process of expressing my gratitude more frequently and clearly to people in my life who make a positive difference to me. Yes, I care deeply about the world and larger issues of social justice. At the same time, I have to focus closer to home, too, because that’s an area I can control to some extent.
I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my world – one small “thank you” at a time.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.