Five things you’re grateful for . . . . Why?
How many times a week do YOU feel overwhelmed? Flustered, Anxious, Angry, Sad, Stressed?
We all deal with variations of these emotions on a daily basis.
The never ending to-do lists, missed appointments, rush-hour traffic, test anxiety, sadness of loss - the list goes on. I speak with people every day - friends, family, strangers - who live under a cloud of negativity, yet by most standards in today’s world they're simply ‘living’ . . . and all of them have a hard time letting go of these situations they find themselves in and the negative emotions that follow.
So, in times of overwhelm, I encourage people to STOP what they’re doing (if possible, just for a brief 90 seconds) and think or say five things they're grateful for, right then and there. Easier said than done, I know.
But really, it has been scientifically proven that the lifecycle of a negative thought is just 90 seconds. Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, taught us that to feel an emotion we need to think a thought > which stimulates an emotional circuit in our brain > which then creates a physiological response in our bodies. That full circuit: from thinking something > to triggering the brain > to a physical response > to letting go of that response . . . takes less than 90 seconds.
Let’s think about that.
If, after those 90 seconds, you think another negative thought, you are re-triggering the circuit and the response - thus keeping you in a negative head space. BUT, if you change your thought or somehow tweak your thought pattern to get your mind moving in a positive direction, those negative emotions are cut off - they will lose their steam and literally fizzle out.
Another important point Dr. Taylor makes in this video is that no one can make you angry. This reminds me of the famous quote from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
No one can stimulate your unique emotional circuitry without your permission. Our brains are stimulated by our thoughts, no one else’s. Our thoughts can certainly be influenced by the people and situations around us, but no one can get into your brain and make you feel anything . . . well at least not in most current realities. Yes, I'm sure mad scientists are working feverishly on legit mind control as I type.
So this is where the practice of FIVE THINGS comes in.
Take traffic for example ::: you merge onto the freeway, red lights bathe the road in a glow of doom, drivers blaze by you on the shoulder like they’re going to get somewhere faster than you, horns are honking, people are glaring for no apparent reason, and you’re probably going to be late for your dinner plans. When faced with that situation, you have a choice - we always have a choice. This choice will be the deciding factor for whether you show up at your destination in a good mood or not. Here are your options: accept that there is absolutely nothing you can do to change this particular situation, sit back, listen to music, and enjoy the ride OR fight to your core to get in front of as many other drivers as possible and work yourself into a proper bad mood that only a strong drink will fix . . . again, the main difference between these two options is the outcome - how do you want to arrive?
So in this particular situation, I personally choose to not only go with the first option and accept my inadequacy at controlling traffic patterns and other people’s behavior, but also stop my potential slide into a pit of negativity by stating FIVE THINGS I'm grateful for. The first five things that come to mind.
Although three and seven are my favorite numbers, five is just right for this process. Enough to have an impact, not too many that you’re worn out by the end. Now these ‘five things’ don’t need to be physical things, they can be recent or past experiences, people in your life, places you’ve been, things that make you smile, honestly, anything to take you from a bad thought pattern to a good one.
No matter what these things are, what matters is that you are grateful for them.
So here’s my challenge to you . . . the next time you’re faced with an overwhelming situation - whether your blood is about to boil or your eyes are welling up with tears - take 90 seconds and try this:
1. Pause 2. Take a deep breath 3. Think or say FIVE THINGS you're grateful for in that moment.
Challenging? You know it. Helpful? Without a doubt.
Love + Joy,