From Negativity to Gratitude

There’s a buzz about “gratitude” this month - talking time each day to think of all the good things in your life - things you might ordinarily take for granted.  This is a great practice; it can be uplifting to the spirit and can provide a much needed perspective shift. Simply listing what you are grateful for can be a wonderful, heart-warming practice, but I challenge you to take it a step further and combine a “present moment mindfulness” with your gratitude practice.

Try to catch yourself in middle of a negative thought and turn it to a positive one. This is  not easy, but it can help lift you out of a self-numbing sadness, before your mind and emotions spiral you toward a more depressed state. I recently got the opportunity to practice this myself.

My son, who we thought had outgrown his asthma, had a really bad week-long attack with his latest cold. Now he must take several very strong medications to help get his lungs functioning properly again. I shuddered when I though of him taking these drugs, which help the asthma but can have negative side effects. I started the pity party immediately, thinking, “His poor little body... Why don’t his lungs work as well as other kids?...I ‘did everything right’ - why him?... I hate the side effects of this medicine, I wish he didn’t have to take it.” But then I caught myself and stopped. I changed that moment of negativity to one of gratitude. My thoughts changed, “He is a strong boy and healthy in so many ways... Thank goodness for this medicine that can help his lungs open up - it has saved his life... His asthma is considered mild to moderate, it could be much worse; thankfully it isn’t. He is happy and healthy and will continue to grow stronger.”

Not only does such a mental shift help me to deal with “less than ideal” circumstances, but I think the more positive, gratitude-based attitude and energy I share with my son changes how he thinks about himself and his own health.

My circumstance is just one. This works with issues big or small. You could change any negative thinking to gratitude-based thinking. For instance, say you were looking for a close parking spot on a rainy day and you simply couldn’t find one. You might be inclined to think, “oh, this always happens to me, I can never get a close spot when I need one.” You could change that thought to having gratitude for your car, having gratitude for your legs - which allow you to walk from a far spot.  Have gratitude for a warm coat, or an umbrella, or if you don’t have those things, then be grateful for a healthy body that will survive if you get a little wet. Have gratitude for the rain. Step outside your box and expand your perspective. Most of the time, you’ll see that things aren’t as bad as you might think, and that we all have much to be thankful for.