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.
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.
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.
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.
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.