As I always tell my daughter, “choose gratitude over attitude”. It seems like an easy concept to incorporate into one’s life, but it is amazing how life can challenge this concept. Between social media, news, and traveling museums like the compassion project, we have an opportunity to witness how lucky we are to have food, water, medical, transportation and education. Unfortunately, we also have access to the disparity that can exist amongst economic classes, education, material objects, etc., all of which can sabotage gratitude. Focusing on what one does not have is correlated with poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and suicide. So where does one look to find gratitude without an attitude of “it’s not fair!”
The answer is you! More importantly, the words which you speak to yourself. When illness, material goods, and/or life stressors overwhelm us, what is your self-talk during this time? Is it, “I can do this”? Do you take a deep breath, and remind yourself of your strengths? Or do you find yourself saying “why me? I cannot do this! This is so hard! I am so (fill in your negative remark here).” More likely, it is the latter. If we focus on the negativity, we will inevitably become what we are focusing on. How does this translate to gratitude you may ask? Gratitude begins with being grateful for you. Being grateful for our ability to breathe, move, eat, think, sleep, laugh, cry, and exercise. All of this can be hard work, but how lucky are we that we can change. Being grateful versus resenting how challenging it may be is a HUGE piece to living a life of happiness and health.
Gratitude will improve your commitment to exercise, good sleep, and healthy dietary choices. How? Because life will often throw us curve balls like pain, illness, travel or children. Sometimes maintaining a commitment can feel daunting and impossible. At times, it was easier to say you only have 15 minutes to exercise, you will do it another time or stay up late telling yourself you will be able to get more sleep next week. I have been here with frustration, anxiety and exhaustion as a result. I realized the only way I would be able to commit to improving my health and inevitably my behaviors were to improve my thinking. I realized I had a lot of resentment for having to, as I say, parent oneself. I resented that I had a neurological disease and if I did not sleep well, exercise consistently, and avoid certain foods, I would truly not feel well. I started to make the changes, but I did it not because I appreciated what I had but because I HAD to in order to avoid myalgia/pain. I would exercise but I would push hard and stew over what I used to be able to do. I would go to bed early and feel like I was missing out. Yes, I felt like I was just surviving.
THE GRATITUDE CHANGE.
I wish I could say there was a moment where I felt a shift in my thinking, but it would be untrue. I have been blessed to have listened and read many a book on healing and started with a small shift in my thinking. First, it was awareness of my self-talk. Was it negative or positive? Could I shift it? Could I wake up with gratitude that today I can walk because there once was a day where walking was exhausting? Can I love who I am, appreciate who I was, and embrace who I was becoming? Slowly, my mindset changed into one of gratitude.
Next, I changed attitude toward my daily lifestyle habits. Rather than feeling that my days are never long enough to get all that I need done, and allow anxiety to build, I chose to rethink how I view the time I have. Prepping ahead is a huge time saver for me and allows me to stay on track with healthy choices. BUT it does take TIME. Now I look forward to the time because I couple it listening to a book or music, watching a show I do not typically get to watch or talking with my sisters. My attitude with time and exercise really had to make a shift. Mornings are my best time to exercise, I feel less pain and more energy, BUT they are also a time where it is the busiest in the household. I used to either forgo the exercise if I only had 10 minutes or resent not feeling like I could work out like I had intended to. These thoughts only derailed my health. I started to take the 10 minutes and embrace it. I started to challenge myself with how I can make these 10 minutes meaningful. And within these 10 minutes, focusing on being grateful that I get this opportunity versus being angry made a BIG difference with improving my performance and recovery. And sleep, well this is the hardest for me. I focus on the next morning, and how much I enjoy the early mornings where everyone is still asleep, and it is just me, myself and I. Do I feel better…. YES, and with more energy and happiness in my heart.
It is important for us to be grateful for the opportunities we have in life like education, food, transportation, friends, etc. I truly feel it is as important to be grateful for your ability to think, move, eat, sleep, love and live. Allow this upcoming holiday’s hustle and bustle as an opportunity for reshaping your thinking to one of positivity and gratitude not only for others but also for yourself.