Some days you just want to stay in bed hoping the world forgets you exist! It can happen especially at this time of year when the weather keeps us bundled up and indoors. Often the sky is overcast and it’s damp and gray, which can be another downer when it seems to happen day after day. The “job” seems like drudgery and getting there is almost too much of a hassle. You are tired of managing your time so exactly as you go about setting up your daily schedule, which includes: practicing, voice lessons, coachings, attending events related to moving your singing career forward, as well as going to work and trying to stay on top of all that life in general throws your way. You are tired, worn down, and barely making it on your salary. Yes, it would be easier to just stay in bed and let the world go by. You may even be rethinking your career choice.
“He who spends time regretting the past, loses the present and risks the future.”
How do you get out of this kind of slump? According to a study by Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and psychology professor Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, participants’ taking the time to focus on what made them feel grateful was the key. The folks in the group that concentrated on situations they felt enhanced their lives were just flat-out happier. They saw their lives in favorable terms and reported fewer negative physical symptoms such as headaches or colds, and became active in ways that were good for them, like exercising more often. Those who found things to be grateful for every day had a better quality of life.
Dr. Emmons and Professor McCullough also recognized that those that took the time to look for things they felt grateful for had more joy, and more energy. These men could see that these people were becoming more optimistic. They also realized that the group that looked for things they could feel grateful for were perceived as being more helpful toward others, even going out on a limb for them. Practicing this was found to get people to become more helpful, pro-social, and more compassionate.
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
The two professors recognized that there was something powerful about a regular gratitude check. When others were asked their impressions of these daily-gratitude folks, they said that they seemed to be more empathetic and actually put themselves out for others. The study also found that the people who were consciously grateful actually felt better about their own lives-they were more optimistic, energetic, enthusiastic, determined, interested, and joyful. They were also healthier, got more quality sleep, and were seen as a positive asset to their fellow humans. Sounds simple and pretty good, doesn’t it?
Related scientific studies have found other benefits linked to having a grateful mind set: clearer thinking, better resilience during tough times, higher immune response, less likelihood of being plagued by stress, longer lives, closer family ties, and greater access to their intrinsic spiritual selves.
Emmons says that being grateful is a demanding quality, takes discipline, and may not come easily to everyone, but it can be developed.
“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”
~ Christiane Northrup
So how does one go about developing the “gratitude” habit? Here are some suggestions.
- At the beginning of each day, take a few minutes to let the mind and body come to rest, close your eyes and start the “grateful” process by noticing a few things to be grateful for. Start making a mental list and carry it with you though out the day. These are not always the big things, but something as simple as being able to dress yourself, to have good eyesight, great teeth, it’s a beautiful day, etc. Simple things we usually take for granted.
- At the end of your day, jot down a couple of “stand out” things from the mental “grateful” list you made during the day; anything that uplifted your spirits, brought a smile to your face, and warmed your heart. Again, it could be something as small as watching a squirrel hopping from branch to branch on a tree, or a small child on a bus or subway, or perhaps just a beautiful, clear, sunny day. It’s about taking the time to be aware of and notice the life that is going on around you. It’s focusing on what is happening right now by being in the moment. Once you have your couple of things in mind, write them down and then describe what it was about these situations or events that made you grateful. This doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
~ Betty Smith
Writing down what you are grateful for, and why, helps remind you that even through we live in a very fast-paced, almost impersonal world, we are all interconnected. It forces you to focus on what went right during the day instead of always dwelling on the negative and annoying things that went wrong. It helps take you away from the overly dramatic, fear-based and negative news and ads on TV, online, and in magazines. And believe it or not, consciously being grateful and expressing your appreciation in turn enhances your self-esteem.
Start noticing what patterns start popping out at you. There will be a kind of consistency within your list of items that you are grateful for. Many entries will draw attention to the importance of people in your life. Another pattern may be particular experiences you have that give you a lift. It could also be something you have created and done yourself that you can point to with pride and say I did that, I made that happen. It’s a kind of happiness or fulfillment that comes from the action itself and not from the result of it. If you receive any additional benefits from this kind of action, it’s all just icing on the cake.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
~ Frank A. Clark
We all criticize others in our thinking brain, or thoughts. Here’s an example: Walking down the street we may see someone who is wearing something that is not becoming to them or just looks weird, and we say to ourselves, “Why would someone built like that wear something that tight?” or something similar. Become aware that you are doing it–that’s the first part. We all do it, but for the most part it is unconscious. We are always judging and criticizing other. And did you know that we do it so we can feel better about ourselves? We also spend time saying to ourselves the interesting and good things we notice happening with others in our lives, but instead of letting the other person hear the good things thought about them, it seems easier to criticize, because we have made that into a habit. When we do notice something good about another person-it could even be someone we don’t know–how would it feel to say to that person, “You look great,” “you have a beautiful smile,” or “well done.” How often do you compliment others for their efforts, even if it is their job. Start making a conscious effort to exchange the critical remark for one that is supportive and positive when you have the opportunity. Watch what it does, not only for you but also for others, to know they have been appreciated. Gratitude, when expressed to others, almost always comes back around. People who feel appreciated are more willing to make an effort for those who make them feel valued. Gratitude resonates.
“Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Do you sincerely want to become conscious of what thoughts you want to hold onto in your head? If so, it is said that it takes about twenty-one days of consciously doing the new routine to create a new habit. Give it a try. So don’t wait for someone else to make something happen in your life, instead “carpe diem”–seize the day! Find out what’s right with your world and make more of that happen. Look for the good, positive things in life. Trust me when I say, there will be plenty of other people, places, and things to show you the negative. If you don’t take care of yourself, your thoughts and feelings and how you want to live your life, someone or something else will. Do you want that to happen or do you want to be in charge of how you choose to experience life?
Celebrate the New Year with intention and an agenda. In today’s fast-paced, electronic, materialistic, and instant-gratification world, being connected with others by taking a risk and reaching out begins with a simple gesture. Technology keeps us connected, but there’s no substitute for the touch of another human being, and living life to the fullest doesn’t mean going fast. So, invest in the world around you by consciously being grateful for the things that matter, by letting others know they are appreciated, and by letting go of the small stuff that doesn’t really matter. Don’t let fear and worry run your life. Let your joy and gratitude inspire your own efforts. It’s the journey that makes life interesting and is the best part of the trip. Getting to your destination is often anti-climactic. Reaching out and spending time with those of like mind will help replenish your sources of inspiration and wealth.
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
~ Mary Engelbreit
So when you start feeling unappreciated, change it by taking the time to think about three things that you are truly grateful for right at that moment, and pay it forward by showing your appreciation for others. Make it a conscious choice to practice each and every day. It doesn’t take any more time, energy, or money than behaving the other way, and the benefits are 1000 percent better. Happy New Year!