Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become a daily habit. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: the beauty of nature, our family, friends who listen and really hear, our bodies, food and shelter, the ability to read and write, the benefits of technology, holidays and of course, chocolate. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

• Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

• Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.

• Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.

• Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.

• When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

• Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Author’s content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Finding Meaning in “Negative” Events

There’s a Taoist story of an old farmer whose horse inexplicably ran away. His neighbors said, “What bad luck!” to which he replied, “Perhaps.”

The next day, the horse returned, bringing with it a wild horse. The farmer’s son tried to ride it, fell, and broke his leg. Once again, the neighbors sent their sympathy: “How terrible this is.” “Perhaps,” the farmer said.

The following day, military officials came to the village to draft every young man into the army. With his leg broken, the farmer’s son was spared from service.

There’s always more than one way to look at what life brings you, and for every event that seems negative there is a way to reframe it so that you can see the positive. And that can be a very good thing: your experiences become more meaningful, purposeful and valuable when you are able to recognize the gift contained in adversity.

The trouble is that, during the time you are experiencing adversity it’s often challenging, if not impossible, to see the proverbial silver lining.

So, how do you find the silver lining when troubles arrive at your doorstep?”

See the opposite.

Every day may not be good, but there is good to be found in every day—and a hidden gift in all our experiences. Search for the positive interpretation of the event.

Doing this might seem, at first, alien to you, but thinking outside of your initial interpretation of the event, and learning to be proficient at finding meaning in the challenges that come your way, is an excellent exercise in expanding your view of what’s possible.

Ask yourself lots of questions.

Adversity can serve you in positive ways, and one of the best ways to open yourself up and leverage negative experiences is by asking questions like:

  • How can I use this experience to learn (and change) something about myself? Positive or negative, our experiences are our guides and teachers, and can help us, if we pay attention to the lessons, to improve the quality of our lives.
  • How could this negative experience affect me in a positive way? This can be a challenging question to ask when you feel stuck in the middle of an uncomfortable situation. But being a partner with your pain allows you to open up to the beneficent possibilities instead of merely wallowing in the negativity.
  • How will this make me a stronger person? It’s not about handling difficult circumstances better than others (a mere ego boost), but how an expanded perspective empowers you to be a more capable and resilient spouse, parent, employee, entrepreneur, etc.
  • How does this negative event (and your reaction to it) reflect your life purpose? Sometimes, what we initially perceive as being an obstacle is actually a guide changing our course and steering us to our true path.
  • What’s the opportunity in the negative experience? Personal/professional growth? Developing a thicker skin? Service to others? Connection? A call to adventure? A mindset shift? Reassessing negative situations means converting them into something productive.

Be grateful.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. —William James

If not for the negative event itself, be grateful for the insight or lesson learned.

Being present in the moment and appreciating all aspects of your life can act as a calming salve when times get rough.

And remember: finding the silver lining in every cloud doesn’t mean ignoring feelings associated with the event—quite the opposite. It means acknowledging and experiencing those feelings fully AND leveraging them to your advantage.

Giving meaning to events, both positive and negative ones, is empowering. A positive life skill is gained when we realize that for every single thing that happens in our lives, we get to choose whether it’s good or bad, whether it will weaken or strengthen us.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Personal Growth

THE PRICE OF PERFECTIONISM

What does being a perfectionist mean? Simply, it means that there is absolutely no room for failure. Anything achieved by the perfectionist must be completely, well, perfect, no errors, not average but the best possible outcome that can be expected. This expectation is self-imposed and is often times, unrealistic.

Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mindset. They usually grow up with an overly-critical parent and are constantly pressurized to achieve and maintain top results, anything less is unacceptable.

The problem is that nothing the perfectionist does is ever good enough. When they succeed at one goal, they quickly move onto the next. As a result, the perfectionist is in danger of suffering from anxiety or depression. The perfectionist is likely to have low self-esteem. If the perfectionist views their body as less than perfect, they will take matters to the extreme and are in danger of developing eating disorders.

The life of a perfectionist is a constant struggle even though from the outside, they appear to be self-confident and are successful. Inwardly, the perfectionist actually has a low sense of self-worth and lacks self-esteem. Sadly in some cases, over time the constant fear of failure and being unable to live with perceived failures, the perfectionist may decide the only escape is to end their own life.

For most of us, failures are a normal part of every day life. We accept that we are only human, we make mistakes and can choose to learn from them. This is a much healthier attitude as failure cannot be avoided. Having a strong support system can help ease the difficulties in life we go through.

Experiencing difficulties and challenges helps us to grow stronger. We learn that we can survive them, that we are resilient and that no matter what happens today, the sun will still shine tomorrow.

Personal Growth

Dealing With Change

Life is constantly changing. Our circumstances change, we grow older, our children grow up, our jobs change, where we live changes, even the people (families aside) we spend time with changes. How do you feel about change? Does it scare you or excite you? Does it make you feel stressed and anxious or do you look forward to the prospect of change? Generally speaking do you embrace change, go with the flow or do you resist change?

Change is not always easy, especially when it’s forced upon us, such as losing your job due to retrenchment. This can lead to feelings of fear, loss, insecurity, shock, disbelief, powerlessness, anger and depression. It is normal to feel these negative emotions initially. How we cope and deal with change is largely determined by our feelings and attitude towards it.

Change is inevitable. Accepting change is the first step to making the transition easier. The more readily we accept it, the happier and more peaceful our lives will become. Finding meaning in the change can lead to acceptance. As yourself “what does this change mean to me”? How will it affect me? What opportunities are there for me now? Start to see the positive possibilities in the situation. An example of this could be when your children are grown and find yourself with an ’empty nest’, you could take up a hobby you’ve always been meaning to start or do volunteer or charity work. Going back to the example of having lost your job, consider a change in career (maybe you’ve always wanted to do something completely different), working in or moving to another city. Explore your options.

Once you have decided on your course of action, commit to your decision. Plan how to reach your goals and take action! Who knows, the change you’re going through may be the catalyst for you to do something you’ve always dreamed of.

To summarize, when it comes to change :

acknowledge and deal with your feelings,
find meaning in it,
explore opportunities and positive possibilities,
commit, plan and take action.

Change can be challenging but it’s not all bad! Change helps us to grow, experience and learn new things. It’s what makes life interesting and it helps us to appreciate our lives as they are now.

Motivational

Is Life Passing You By?

Is life passing you by while you for the ‘perfect’ time to realize your dreams, goals or desires? An example of this will be ‘when the kids are in school …’, or ‘when the kids are out the house …’, you get the idea. There will never be the perfect time, the moment is right now! By waiting for the so-called ‘perfect time’ we are in fact postponing our own happiness, satisfaction and success in life.

Think about what is most important to you in life. Perhaps spending quality time with your family is of high value to you. How would you feel if you were only able to spend a limited amount of time with them. More than likely this would make you feel unhappy and uncomfortable with the situation, you might even feel stressed about it. What would you be willing to do to change it? Perhaps spend less time at the office or free up your weekends to do fun stuff with your spouse and kids?

The truth is when you make something important and of high value, you will make it a priority and find the time to do it. Shouldn’t our goals, dreams and aspirations be regarded as of high value and importance? Why put off having something you’ve always dreamed of? Why have a mediocre life?

Life is short and precious. While you have the time here on earth make time to the things you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t wake up one day and look back on your life with regrets. Decide what you want and then go out and get it! It’s never too late to start. Write down your goals and dreams. Plan step-by-step how you are going to achieve them. Do something every day to bring you closer to your goals. Enjoy the feeling of success when you accomplish them.

Keep growing and achieving and live a fulfilling life. After all, it’s your life to LIVE!