The idea of gratitude is pretty simple. Our thoughts are natural pathways to the brain. The more positive our thoughts, the happier we are. Easier said than done. If I’ve learned anything though, in my year-long journey to find peace with anxiety, gratitude is the most important act of self-care there is.
In the world we live in, it’s all too easy to block out the details of every day, and forget about what we might be thankful for. You know you need to stop and take a moment for self-care and reflection, but in those moments, it’s even easier to find your mind spinning in negative thoughts, rather than practicing gratitude.
In the last year, I’ve tried a laundry list of things in the name of mental health and self-care, and my inner monologue hasn’t always been filled with gratitude, but I’m getting there…
The first 3 months…
“Is it working out if I’m not sweating? Are everyone else’s eyes really closed during Savasana?”
“Wait, what about my makeup? I should really have planned this on a hair wash day. An hour. I have to be in there an hour. I actually don’t know how to meditate (see below) or stop thinking entirely or think about really anything except my to-do list (no gratitude here) so this is just a challenge altogether.”
“I guess I can use this time to catch up on my professional development reading, that’s a good use of the time, right?”
Yeah, I didn’t make it past the first 10 pages of the book about how to meditate…
“Why am I not relaxing? I am literally paying to relax… a lot of money. I should be relaxing. When this is over I have a lot to do. What am I going to do first? Oh my god she wants me to flip over which means this is almost over which means oh my god I have NOT relaxed yet.”
This is just another task on my to-do list now, isn’t it?
Cell Phone Free Runs
“I’ll just check in on work realllllly quick….”
“Technology Free Sundays”
Cue a mental breakdown on Mondays over unanswered texts, a full email inbox, and all of those social media notifications are really just too much. I’ll just hide my phone under my bed (seriously, I’ve hidden my phone under there more times than I wish to admit)
… Present Day
I won’t pretend I’ve got it all figured out. I won’t say that the entire 60 minutes of my latest float I was completely in tune with my own breathing and practicing mindfulness. I won’t say that the last time I got a massage I didn’t spend at least 10 minutes of the time thinking about an email I may or may not have sent at work. But I head into each experience thinking about gratitude first, last, and during…. And it helps!
The more you look for gratitude in your life, the more positive you will find in your life. And in the name of mental health and self care, that’s never a bad thing.
While it’s important to be mindful of your own needs and take a break every now and then, if your thoughts are toxic, none of it really matters, does it? So above all else, if I’ve learned anything in my year of “more me, less them” and “it’s OK to say no” it’s this: gratitude is the healthiest of human emotions. And when you start from the inside out with self care, it’s much easier.