Wednesday, 13 July 2016

STEP #5 ON THE JOURNEY TO HAPPINESS ~ BE GRATEFUL

Step #5 on the Journey to Happiness ~ Be Grateful for all the positive things in your life

CHOICES

As I mentioned in #4 Choose your Story ~ life is really all about making choices - big ones and small ones - every day. The choices we make colour our world view and affect our mood and determine whether we define ourselves as "happy" or not. What you do with those choices also impacts on how you move forward in life. You can take them for granted and feel entitled or you can choose an attitude of gratitude and appreciate what you have.

PERSPECTIVE

When my world was full of less than wonderful things, all I could see was how hard done by I was and how unfair life was. I felt like I had been dealt a really poor hand in the card game of life and I just couldn't see past the doom and gloom.

Sometimes we can get stuck in that mode for years, we spiral down into depression and it's so hard to dig our way out again. I was talking to someone the other day and she said she felt like she was at the bottom of a well with people telling her to climb up the ladder but she didn't have enough in her to even move towards the ladder, let alone climb it. This was a woman who appeared to have everything on the surface, and yet she feels like she has nothing - perspective is a very powerful force in our lives. 

Once depression sets in and we feel helpless then greater steps than mere gratitude are going to be necessary. No amount of gratitude or "just cheer up" is going to work, but if can catch ourselves in the early stages when life is just a bit "blah" then an attitude of gratitude can help steer us in a more hopeful direction.

GRATITIDE

I know when I felt I was at rock bottom, the turning point was to focus on what I had (rather than on the things I felt had been taken away). I started to think more positively and look at what was left and how that could be shaped to make a good life. That way of thinking opened my eyes to some of the strengths I possessed that I'd forgotten about. Recognizing what I was capable of encouraged me to stop dragging my feet and start appreciating the good things that were still in my life.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

APPRECIATION

Life brings good and bad experiences - nobody is immune to them. Being grateful for the good - zeroing in on the blessings, acknowledging them and being thankful for them brings with it contentment. Contentment calms the soul and happiness has a chance to re-grow its roots in your life. All those unfortunate events I mentioned in my first post in this series were facts of life but they weren't the only facts.

Once I started looking at the upside of the situation, things started to improve. When I accepted my own strengths I could start rebuilding my resilience which seemed to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. I needed to see the other truths in my life - I was healthy, I could support myself financially if I needed to, I had loving solid friendships, supportive family, my kids were doing well, my husband was going through stuff that he needed to deal with and I wasn't responsible for how he felt, and the list goes on.

GROWTH

Turning the light onto the positives meant turning away from the not-so-fabulous stuff and once I started that process it gave me the forward momentum I needed. Now I can look back at the lessons the tough times taught me. I haven't learned them all by any means (I'm a work in progress) but I am learning to worry less, worse-case-scenario less, appreciate more, laugh more, and take responsibility for my own happiness. You could even say I'm grateful for those not-so-fabulous times because they've helped me grow in ways that never would have happened without them.


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Step #5 on the Journey to Happiness ~ Be Grateful for all the positive things in your life

32 comments:

  1. I love the journey you have described for Happiness, in particular Growth. As we grow we are able to see things clearly and learn we make our own happiness - it is up to us. Great series. xxx

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    1. thanks Sue - it is definitely a case of taking ownership and responsibility for how you feel and how you react to what life throws at you. I think choosing happiness and gratitude is so much better than the other option.

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  2. I find that allowing myself to feel what I feel, without judging myself for it, is a healing force. This is a great reminder that focusing on what we have can change our perspective.

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    1. I think it definitely helps Suzi - if your thoughts are centred on what you have rather than what you don't have, you automatically have a head start on happiness.

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  3. Gratitude is a game-changer. It puts everything in perspective and helps you realize that there's so much more good than bad.

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    1. that's so true Lois - we have so much to be thankful for and stopping to appreciate that is really good for us.

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  4. It took me until my 30s to come into a daily gratitude practice.
    My child is te and has done it with me for 5 years.

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    1. Reminding ourselves of all that we have to be grateful for is such a blessing and it lifts us up - we need all the help we can get in that area Carla :)

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  5. Gratitude and growth! Those are biggies for me to focus on! Happiness is packaged in so many different ways, but appreciating it will put the bow on top! Great reminders Leanne :)

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    1. Thanks Laurie - I think we need to stop and appreciate what we have. We take so much for granted and we can be so ungrateful at times - it's nice to turn that around and it certainly helps our happiness level.

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  6. I have such mixed feelings about this post. On the one hand every single thing you say is helpful and fabulous. I love that you made this trip and that you share what you learned. On the other hand (and this might just be my perspective as someone who suffers from major mental illness) I think it is dangerous to imply that mindset is a way to reverse depression. It can do wonders to help feelings of depression but very little for major chemical imbalances. I wonder about your friend in the welll...if she has been in therapy, tried medication. The feeling of drowning can be short term and helped by appreciating what you have in life. Or it can be epic and dangerous. It is important to tease out the differences.

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    1. Anna I know exactly what you're saying - I have been gently and firmly suggesting counselling and medication to that friend for months. She is very resistant, but I don't see her climbing out of the hole without it. I am surrounded by family members who are chronically low on seratonin and need medication to function. I hadn't realized that people might interpret this post to think that smiling and being grateful will solve being depressed - it certainly won't! I was trying to say that our perspective on life can slowly lead us into a downward spiral where we can feel like we're drowning - that's when intervention is going to be the answer without a doubt. Thanks for your insights x

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  7. Gratitude is a way of life for me andI do think it is part of how I keep upbeat. I do think that gratitude and doing for others helps ease some depression. Therapists often assign people good works and volunteerism to help take the focus off the depressing stuff and on to helping others and being grateful. It's not a panacea for all cases but depression is a continuum and one size doesn't fit all. So glad it worked for you!
    Carol
    http://carolcassara.com/horrible-bosses/

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    1. Thanks Carol - I don't think gratitude "fixes" depression either, but it helps if you are in the early stages of being down and miserable. What we focus on affects our mood and our outlook, that in turn lifts or drops our spirits. The worst end of this is depression and that's a serious issue, the early and middle stages can be helped by being more aware of how lucky we are and looking for ways to increase that feeling. Upbeat is what I'm aiming for wherever possible!

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  8. Depression seems to take many forms and often can be helped, but sometimes not. I think the right combination of therapy, self-help (yoga, exercises, e.g.) and sometimes medication works well for many but not all.

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    1. I agree Helene - often counselling and medication is the only answer when you're depressed, but for many of us, that haven't fallen that far down "the well" there is a lot we can do to help ourselves climb back up again.

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  9. I love the way you told this story and I agree, having a grate full heart takes practice but it does make moving forward easier.

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    1. thanks Doreen - gratitude has to put a smile on your face doesn't it?

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  10. Despite having inherited an over abundance of negativity from my father, for some reason, I always felt secure in the knowledge that I could depend on myself. (Now, that I'm older, I realize that some of that is simply luck.) I don't have an organized gratitude project or routine, but I often feel supremely grateful for how my life evolved.

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    1. I don't think it matters how you go about being grateful Suzanne - just being appreciative of the good things life has given us is enough to give us a boost and help keep the negativity at bay. I'm glad you found a way to thwart the family "legacy"!

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  11. I completely agree that we need to count our blessings and be grateful for what we have in order to move forward in our lives.
    Estelle

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    1. thanks Estelle - it's an easy lesson to forget if we get too caught up in how life isn't giving us all we'd hoped for.

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  12. What a great message! I continually have to reiterate this to my soul. Some of the most successful, resourceful, and responsible individuals I've known are those who continually take ownership of their lives and work to shift their focus when things look grim. It's a skill that requires practice for all of us! Thanks for this lovely post.

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    1. Thanks so much Rica - it is definitely a skill you can work on - I've been a bit late with putting effort into it, but the more I focus on what I have rather than what I don't, the happier and more content I am with my life in general x

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  13. Yes, I think it is so important not to focus only on what you don't have, or think others have, or are unhappy with - it's draining for you & everyone else. Positivity & appreciation can go along way.

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    1. It's so easy to only see what you're missing out on - to turn it around and look at all the blessings lifts your spirits every time.

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  14. I like to see the good in a half full and a half empty glass, Leanne. How are you going to enjoy that delicious drink of choice if you don't get it down to the halfway mark? A perpetually full glass would be so hard to maintain, especially if you were staring at iced coffee on a 90 degree day, right?

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    1. There is no way an iced coffee is going to stay full on a Summers day Molly - you're right though if we think of the glass being half full because we've been enjoying it then it can't help but make you smile.

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  15. I'm always a positive person, but sometimes I need to be reminded to be grateful for what I have. Thank you. And thanks for sharing at the Bl

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    1. Hi Debbie - I'm a positive kind of gal too - but a dollop of gratitude here and there certainly makes life more upbeat :)

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  16. This is the key. At least it was for me. When life was spiraling downward, all I could see was the bad. All I could think about was the terrible things. I focused on them, lived in them, I even laid down and rolled around in them. Like a dog rolling in garbage. When I got up I was still covered in them. I wore them like a stench. It all changed when I began focusing on the good. I had to concentrate to think about 5 things I was grateful for. Soon I realized that while I was trying with all my might to find the good that it took up so much time and energy that the bad receeded. The more I thought about the good there wasn't much room for the bad. It was still there, but if I didn't focus on it it didn't seem as bad or overwhelming. I wasn't as anxious, I could relax and breathe.

    You are exactly right, we need to retrain our brains at some point in order to survive, to climb up the ladder and have the strength to climb a bit higher each day. Thanks for reminding me to always look for the good!

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    1. That was a word picture that described the whole wallowing thing down pat Nikki - when life sucks we have to stop ourselves making it worse by dwelling on it all. Even a small change in our focus and looking at things differently can be the beginning of a whole new outlook on life - you've certainly proved to be an amazing example of that!

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