The other day I was asked if I make gratitude a daily habit…and, on reflection, I was pleased to report that, Yes, I do! Yippee!! It's Thanksgiving Everyday.
But not long ago I remember waking and hearing my inner voice saying ‘Worry!’ YIKES.
Forget Wayne Dyer who would say ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’ on stepping out of bed. My mind was going in a whole other direction.
Getting out of that kind of a funk takes a bit of doing, (check out my previous article ‘(How to) Stop Stewing’ for one of my favourite gratitude exercises, the Gratitude A-Z), but it is possible and you can retrain your brain to flow down new streams of thought.
BUT…. if you’re in that place of worry, anxiety, black moods, negativity, I urge you first to HONOUR it. I say this over and over: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
Tap into your emotions.
Say to yourself, ‘I’m feeling (worried, sad, angry, blue etc.). I’m human, I’m stuck in this mood, I feel rotten’.
Tap on the little finger side of the hand and say, ‘Even though I’m feeling (insert emotion), I love and accept myself.’ 3 times.
Then round the following acupressure points (start at the inner eyebrow point and work down (either side of the body), then back round to the top of the head, repeat as often as you want.)
As you tap, just keep repeating:
- the emotion (I'm miserable, fed up, worried, angry etc.)
- the thoughts that fuel that emotion ('Oh geez, not another day to get through.')
- the physical sensations that accompany it. (Knot in stomach, pain in chest etc.)
You can add the words, ‘I’m acknowledging that I feel this way. I’m honouring my (sadness, anger, worry etc.) But I’m OK, I’m safe now.’
As you tap you start to send a message to your brain, especially to your amygdala, the ancient part of your brain that governs the fight or flight response, that tells you that you need to be stuck in this emotion in order to survive.
The new message is, you can relax now, you are safe, and that you can start to feel better.
Now you can start to give thanks for what you do have (instead of focusing on what you’re still waiting for.)
I’ve used both informal and more formal gratitude practices in my life. Here are a few:
Start small. I give thanks for my bed, the two cups of coffee I have every morning, the apple that goes with them and keeps the doctor away, indoor plumbing (after watching the Bill Gates’ Netflix series I will never take my toilet for granted again!!) etc.
Create a ritual. As I step out of my front door I look up and say ‘Thank you’ to the heavens for the sunshine (which I love) or the rain (which the planet loves) and to another day.
Write. Here’s an excerpt from my book, ‘The Music Inside’, which describes an exercise I first heard about from Susan Jeffers (of ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ fame.)
‘’The gratitude exercise that she explains is writing a list at the end of every day of at least twenty things for which you are grateful.
Little things (‘The cat sleeping in my violin case while I’m practicing’, ‘That first mouthful of gin and tonic’), big things (‘Email today from the orchestra!!! 33 concerts over the next 4 months! Yay!!!’), people (‘Thanks to my Dad for looking after the girls today’, ‘Friendly guy in the chicken shop’, ‘Laughing with Blanca in the rehearsal ‘), possessions (‘I love my new resin, it smells so delicious’, ‘My bed is so comfortable’), my body (‘Feeling fit and healthy doing yoga today’, ‘My hair went so beautifully today, I LOVE my hairdresser’).
You name it, it goes on the list.
It was surprisingly difficult at first. I would dry up after about five items. So I found myself seeking things out during the day so I would have something to put on my list. Deliberately looking up at trees when I was walking down the street so I could write later ‘The pattern of the leaves against the sky.’ Deliberately noticing a smile here or a joke there when with other people.
This exercise is incredibly powerful and really gets you on an upward spiral of optimism and appreciation.
And you know what they say: ‘You get more of what you focus on.’ So you really do increase the good in your life. A win-win situation!’’