Friday, 29 November 2013

Its a Gratitude feast

As I woke up this morning and said my prayers, I had this overwhelming feeling that I should be happy and grateful. Wonderful memories started to flood into my head bringing thoughts of all the wonderful parts of my life.

I have been studying recently about mental strength and those who have it. One of the aspects in common between mentally resilient people is gratitude, even in difficult circumstances. I had a client recently in the grips of anxiety and depression who looked at me as if I had two heads when I talked with him about changing the way he viewed his circumstances. I suggested that he had a great deal to be grateful for in his life and that even his challenges were opportunities to gain strength and confidence. He just couldn't grasp the concept because he was in victim mode. He wanted to dwell on past, hurtful events and stay in his misery.

It was not appropriate for me to talk about myself but I am so grateful for ALL my experiences in my life, the good, the amusing, the challenging and the downright anguishing moments.

A great article on millenials recently defined happiness as expectations minus reality. If expectations are greater than our reality than we are miserable and frustrated. If our reality reaches higher  than than our expectations then we are happy. Given that life is never easy or straightforward for the majority of us, it is a marvel that we are not all unhappy. Not many of us lead fairy tale existences. And yet, I am happy.

Gratitude is a panacea for my discouragement. Discouragement and gratitude do not make comfortable companions. Beginning from a point of gratitude enables me to view the world with enthusiasm and excitement because I am already in a good place.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” 
― Eckhart TolleA New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

If I am able to view the world from this positive place there is little room for anger or frustration because I am focussed on what I have instead of what I don't have. Gratitude allows me to trust more because I am able to look at whatever happens as a blessing, a means to grow and progress. It softens the blow of disappointment because I can be thankful for the very experience itself and its teachings. Speaking of teachings, gratitude makes me more teachable too because I am more open to the learnings and less focussed on that to which I am entitled. I am working to approach every situation from a point of view of finding something wonderful, inspiring and edifying. Gratitude does that for me.

When I have an attitude of gratitude it is also very hard to blame others. It is almost impossible to express gratitude for someone and to be on the attack at the same time. It is my expectations that lead me to blame others for things that go wrong or for goals that have not been met. When I begin by looking for those aspects for which I am grateful then I am less focussed on what they did not do and more focussed on their positive aspects. Sometimes, when someone has been particularly difficult with me or even nasty, my gratitude might be more about what personal characteristics I am developing because of this relationship but it still means that it is much harder to be angry with people in my life. I get a real thrill when I have succeeded in not letting a particularly nasty incident get to me.

Gratitude is not something I had naturally in me but was something I have needed to consciously develop. I am still not there by a very long margin because I keep falling into the "O woe is me, I wish things were different" mode at times. I think about missing my children in NZ rather than dwelling on an incredible husband who loves me. I get homesick for my old country instead of being grateful for the opportunity to learn a new culture. I wish I had more money instead of being grateful that I live in a lovely home and all the bills are paid every month.

Gratitude is about switching my thinking around and beginning from the positive rather than from the negative. And when I express that gratitude out loud, it begins to develop a life of its own and to grow. I just love my new country's tradition of a Thanksgiving Day when I literally get an opportunity to voice my gratitude about those things that matter most. I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me enough to guide me every single day. I am thankful to find out that soulmates really do exist because I found mine. I am deeply grateful to have six beautiful children, 4 gorgeous granddaughters and the men in their respective lives. I am thankful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all of the experiences that brings me. I am surrounded by beauty and music and love.

This past year has brought challenges of a hurricane, severe snow storm, a malicious court case and an IRS audit as well as estranged family members that I love and miss. But those very experiences have built my resilience and helped me realize that I am part of a team that is my husband, the Lord and I. I have learned to trust Alan with all my heart and to trust the Lord even further that all these things are for my good and growth. Life is good and I am grateful!