Finding my inner-happy

Gratitude – Volume 1

Happy Thought Tuesday!!!!!

Today’s Happy Thought Tuesday post is about gratitude.

I will write a lot about gratitude over time because gratitude is really at the basis of all happiness around and within us. Gratitude helps us heal and grow. Gratitude helps us love and be loved. Gratitude is our magic power.

I know this may not be the first or last gratitude post you read today as it’s become a hot topic, but I’m glad: it should be a hot topic. It should be the hottest of all topics. If everyone in the world took the time to actively feel, express and share gratitude, this world would be in far better shape. I’ve actually put a lot of time and effort into building a habit of gratitude these past few years, especially these past few months. I’m noticing a great difference in my life with it, so I want to make sure I share with you in the event that even one word I said might spark a grateful thought within you!

#Tag, pass it on!

A lot of people may be stuck as to how to begin applying this to your every day life. It seems simple to “just be thankful” but it’s not about just being thankful, it’s about taking the time to recognize that you are feeling joy about an item, a circumstance, a day, a period of time, etc. It’s also about looking for the aspect of less than perfect events, things or people that bring you joy and for which you are thankful, which you truly appreciate! (It’s also about how you look at yourself but let’s start with external joys!)

I, myself, struggled with this for a long time. I always fancied myself someone who was very happy, optimistic, enthusiastic and joyful. But for a long time, I also combined those feelings with a negative pattern of feeling victim to my circumstances and never even realized that I was doing it. To be grateful is to appreciate things as they were or as they are, and recognizing what brought you or brings you joy within them. At least, that’s gratitude for me. For a long time, due to a lifelong battle with sometimes crippling anxiety, I would celebrate the obvious joys, but always find the flaws within it. I would be happy, BUT… It’s like my brain would find the one reason to be anxious or upset and focus on that, instead of focusing on the positive in that moment. Seems so simple, but we were all raised in world where there’s a lot of focus on the problem, and why things aren’t perfect. It’s a world wide habit, especially now with the relentless rise of social media where everyone can go share their opinions about every little thing.

The body and the brain cannot function at full capacity if we keep focusing on what is not or what could be, instead of focusing on what is great now! Has anything ever brought you joy, but right away, you think to yourself:

This makes me happy, BUT… *insert excuses or complaints*.

Sometimes it’s noticeable, sometimes it’s not. But all the time, it is a mindset of looking for the problem in an otherwise happy, problem-free state.

Some of the problems we find are often just in our minds. For me, over time, this bad habit caused a great increase in my anxiety as well as various health issues. These baffled me at the time but eventually I realized that I was creating all of this. Any event in my life was never enough, and always ended up including ridiculous excuses or complaints instead of gratitude:

– This happened to me because…
– I’ll be happy when I have this… or when this happens…
– I really enjoy that but, …
– I have no luck.
– Why does this always happen to me?

This is victim behavior, blaming external events for our unhappiness. We have all done it; it’s a habit we develop at a young age, usually a learned behavior from our friends, our parents or even TV shows. But it’s not because we grew up with a certain pattern that it needs to remain the same forever. If we want to be happier, that’s in our hands. Gratitude is free and easy to notice and give, as long as we put in the effort to build that habit. Our happiness can only come from inside of us, and the best place to start is gratitude.

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What if we started to change that pattern? What if your state of happiness was completely up to you and how you choose to react? The above examples can happen all the same, but it’s all in how you react and that on which you choose to focus. Choose to find reasons to be grateful. Yeah, shitty things will happen – that’s life – but what are you focusing on? The more gratitude we get in the habit to choose to feel, the better we feel. There is no negative side effect to choosing thoughts of gratitude. None! This can change more in your life than you will ever imagine.

I know that sometimes it’s hard, so start small – what do you see around you that makes you smile? Have you ever written a list of things for which you are grateful? You would be surprised how many things you come up with, even if you are just looking around the room where you sit to read this. Let me give you an example to compare the two thought patterns a little bit.

Negative thought pattern versus gratitude thought pattern:

Oh, I had a terrible sleep ———- I’m grateful for this bed.
Why is it so cold out? ——— Hello sun, thanks for shining today.
Why is my parent so difficult? ——- Mom, I’m grateful for you.
I hate doing laundry —— I’m so happy we have a great washing machine and our clothes are clean.
Why can’t this car just work right? ———— Aren’t we lucky to have a car to take us where we need to go?
We have so many renos to do! Ugh! ——- I have a roof over my head.
Why do bad things happen to me? ————– I am loved. It’s gonna be okay.

I could go on and on, but I want you to think of your own examples. You can even dive into a little Louise Hay, if you dare, where she talks about choosing your thoughts on purpose. If you feel a negative thought, you can choose to replace it with a positive one. This is basically the essence behind the idea of building a gratitude habit. It’s in your hands and it’s FREE.

The point here is just to choose what you focus on and where you want to spend your energy. But I promise you that if you choose to put your energy into being grateful for what is, you will see your life unfold magically.

For the full effect of the joy of gratitude, write them down. If you even take 5 minutes a day to write down the things for which you are grateful, even just 2,3,4, or 5 of them, your entire day will change. Do the same at night, you will have a better sleep. Just that, and you will see how your brain starts to find other reasons through the day for which to be grateful. When you start paying attention to it, it will start happening automatically and soon you will be able to look at our earlier scenarios and suddenly, it will look like this:

– This happened to me, but I’m grateful that I got through it!
– I learned something from this imperfect event.
– I am grateful for all that I have right now.
– I really enjoy that. (No buts. Just experience enjoying something!)
– Even though there were some hiccups today, I had a wonderful day.
– The events around me make me stronger and I’m grateful for that.

These are just tiny examples, but the moment that you start building the habit of noticing reasons around you to be grateful, your brain will start to find more and more of them. Gratitude is just as contagious as negativity, it’s just not as bad for your health! 😉 I encourage you to take 5 less minutes today doing something like checking Facebook to see what everyone else is up to, and spend those 5 minutes with yourself, celebrating you, noticing your gratitude for what you have, who you are, what you have experienced or survived. Just feel it! Take the time to actively choose gratitude!

At times, I just sit a minute and smile.
Just to BE grateful! Soak it in.

In a world where everything is upside down, I find myself waking up in the morning being so grateful that I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’m lucky enough to have a roof over my head, this laptop to type on and coffee in my cup. It took me 40 years of life and 5 years of “working on it” to reach this point of my gratitude journey, but I feel better now than ever thanks to this practice.

And of course, if you’d read my blog, you know it hasn’t all been roses; alcoholism, divorce, cancer. I’ve had a slew of various life surprises; at the time, due to a lifetime of anxiety, I did not have the best reaction to all of these events and might have made things harder for myself in doing so. Let’s be real – if something that sucks happen, and then we choose to only focus on the negative, how is that helping? What if something that sucks happen and instead, we choose to find a reason to be grateful instead. The reason really doesn’t need to be related to the event or person that put your happy groove off; just choose to refocus your brain on the gratitude. It’s insane how quickly I can now reverse anxious reactions that have been programmed in my body for decades just by consciously choosing to focus on what is good in my day, my life and the events around me. For someone with an anxiety disorder, in my experience, gratitude is the best therapy.

While always being a relatively happy and positive person, I didn’t notice how often I focused on the problem instead of the gratitude in my life. Now that I’ve been learning to focus on the gratitude of the moment instead, everything is changing, including my overall health and even my complexion (which wasn’t even a big concern but I’ll totally take it!!) By no means do I have this mastered, but I’m making myself happy. You can’t have a happy life full of negative thoughts, so this is the first step.

Think about it… and see if you can even start with one thing.
My wish is that you’ll be grateful you read this post.
From there, you got this – what else are you grateful for?

More on this soon.
Next time, I’ll dive into gratitude for self-love! 😉
See you soon!

Love you all,

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