One of the universal truths of life is that everybody must deal with various trials. These trials may sometimes be small and manageable, but other times, they can seem like extensive road blocks, giving us no choice but to take a long and winding detour. When these massive troubles come our way, it can be so easy to wallow in sorrow and wish things were different. We fall into depressions and employ painful patience in waiting for better days to come. However, what if instead of dwelling on our sadness, we put our focus on the many things we are grateful for?
Energy is powerful. Joy and gratitude are two states of being that carry incredibly high amounts of positive energy. Likewise, worry, guilt, and other similar emotions carry extremely negative energy. While it is O.K. to have negative emotions--and we should always take the time to thoroughly feel what we're feeling--we must also remember that we have the power to transform that negative energy into something healing. It might seem hard at first, but as time goes on, it gets much easier and even becomes a way of life.
Two years ago, I suffered from a terrible depression. It's hard to even remember what instigated it, but I do recall feeling gravely lonely, as if I were completely alone in this cold world. I felt like I had absolutely no one--no friends, no family, no teachers--who understood what I was going through, and it was a devastating feeling. I hated life--I actually hated it--and for months, it didn't seem like I was ever going to be able to get better. Depression can have that effect on people. It has a way of consuming our lives and making us feel like it's the only thing that will ever exist for us. When we're caught in the worst of the storm, sometimes it's hard to remember the warmth of a sunny day.
When I finally realized that I needed help dealing with my depression, I reached out to someone who had recently gone through a storm of her own. After I finished lamenting to her, she gave me a piece of advice that helped me tremendously in my healing, and it has forever changed the way I look at my bad days.
She told me that, every day, for as long as I needed to, I should make two lists--one that identified all the awful/depressing things that happened that day, and one that identified all the wonderful things that happened. Since this practice had been so healing for her, I decided to give it a try. Even on my worst days, I was surprised to find that the list of wonderful things was always much longer than the list of awful things. It just so happened that it was much easier to dwell on the awful things.
But why should I--or anyone, for that matter--let a few brief moments of sadness or stress ruin a perfectly beautiful day? Why should I be blind to the abundance of blessings in my life? The lists made me question these things.
With the practice of making those lists, I began to become aware of all the blessings in my life, and I also began to understand the power of attention. For those many months, when my attention was placed solely on the negative emotions I was feeling, my depression was inescapable. However, when I started to look objectively at everything that was good in my life, my healing was almost immediate.
I began to see the beauty in sunny days, and in the smiles of people I passed on the street. I felt joy in waking up each morning, and I once again viewed life as a precious gift.
It was wonderful.
The practice my friend suggested changed me, and since then, I have started incorporating an attitude of gratitude in various aspects of my life.
Now, I keep gratitude journals, practice mindfulness and meditation more often than I used to, and appreciate the gifts within each moment. My partner and I have also adopted a practice that we do before bed, in which each of us says our favorite part of the day, as well as three things we're grateful for. It really helps us maintain a positive focus, rather than dwelling on what might be going wrong in our lives.
There is truly so much to be thankful for, and we are the ones who have the power to bring those blessings into our focus. It is important to be with our emotions--even our negative ones--but if we wallow in our sorrows too much, we will miss out on all the amazing things each moment has to offer.
It's time to take charge of our lives and take responsibility for our feelings. We may face trials that are out of our control, but we are very much in control of how we respond to them. We have the power to take the extremely potent negative energy of the world and transform it into something positive. It may not always be easy, but when we cultivate gratitude, it is always possible.