I’ve really been struggling lately, I’ve been struggling with the pain in my back & my leg and the diagnosis of degenerative spinal disease, I’ve been struggling with being house bound, I’ve been struggling with losing my independence so this guest post from the lovely Miss Amy Rach is a perfect pick me up, a great way to think about being grateful for what I have rather than feeling sorry for myself. So I’ll hand over to Amy for this guest post:
What makes up the life you lead? Have you ever considered that? I bet you have. Who are you? What makes you, you? As a reader of Toni’s blog, I suspect that somewhere along the line, many of you will define yourself as a mum. So what is that life?
Is it a Facebook ‘worthy’ one? Full of only laughter, smiles, perfect poses, arts and crafts, cuddles and time spent galloping around flower-filled meadows? Or is it one filled with the pressure of the to-do list, the ‘balanced’ meals to cook, the washing, ironing, tidying, cleaning, and perhaps even an actual day job on top!? For many, this is all alongside the incessant calls of ‘mum, mum, mum’ the drink making and time required to ‘watch me bounce this ball’ for the 643rd time until your brain considers imploding.
Then, to make things worse, that tiny niggly thought that your brain considers in the depth of the frustration. Is anyone ever grateful for the things you do? Does anyone appreciate the time you give to keep everything running to schedule? The combination of all of his hard graft and little recognition has often had me sitting there thinking ‘how did this become my life?’ Ok, so I am not actually a mum myself. However, there are children in my life, four of them, all under the age of nine. So I can relate.
The bottom line of it all is that this treadmill can get us down. The human brain seems wired to focus on the negative. Thus we may find ourselves questioning whether this version of being, is actually what we signed-up for. And with, arguably, only one life to live, it can call everything into question.
Underneath it all, we all know that life comes with responsibilities, many of which we made a conscious decision to pursue. We also know deep down that we both have to and want to do our best. However, at times, that deep-seated understanding feels masked. This can leave us wondering what kind of bad person we may have been in a previous life to deserve such an exhausting existence.
Perspective can be an important factor here. I spent a good number of years always seeming to fixate on the negative. Focussing on what I did not have over what I did, on what others appeared to have and why this was my lot in life. It made me miserable and I now wish I had taken others literally, when they suggested I look on the bright side.
So, on top of the endless cycle of chores and routine, we also have to consider how we manage our outlook on life. How do we stay grateful in a world where we give our soul for the sake of others?
It is actually yet another task. Yes, this statement draws audible groans as the mental to-do list expands. However, this task is very much worth the time and the effort it takes to embed. Research suggests that we have to do something for 21 days for it to become a habit. Seems a long time right? Nevertheless, this habit can significantly improve your life.
To begin with, the idea of gratitude can seem a little airy-fairy. Surely, it is only for those stereotypical ‘hippies’ of old, practising mindfulness whilst humming in the aforementioned meadow? However, all these things are on the rise as we strive to live our best life.
Somewhat of a disclaimer is that I am no expert, I am just a normal gal. I am, however, one that reflects and learns and I am living my own version of a normal life and trying to make it the best one. Isn’t that what we all want?
Over the years, understanding how I feel has become something of great interest to me and at some point, my brain decided to consider how my reactions made me feel. Situations can appear negative because of what has happened, but if you check your perspective, things may not seem so bad.
LET US LOOK AT AN EXAMPLE
Yesterday, I was cooking and leaned forward whilst I organised the ingredients on the kitchen surface. For what seems the bazillionth time, I nutted the extractor element of my cooker. Even now, I can feel the rage and pain that momentarily took a hold of me. But actually, whilst the bump on the head hurt and I probably killed off a few more brain cells that I can spare, if a bump on the head is the sum of my problems then life is, indeed, pretty good. The fact that I have my own home, a kitchen and a stupid extractor hood means that I am doing okay.
Gratitude has strong links with mindfulness and focussing on good experiences, events, people or things can assist in cultivating happiness. As you consider these positives, you enjoy the good emotions that come with the thoughts. This is not necessarily easy and when I began attempting this, my brain would argue with me with all of the ‘yes buts’ it could muster. However, in time, things change.
Gratitude creates positive emotions and, as with mindfulness, it can develop positive thinking and behaviours, becoming a natural part of our day-to-day lives rather than because of a conscious effort. For me, this has been hugely helpful in a world of feeling underappreciated and negative. It helps you to let go.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
I have seen numerous gratitude logs whilst undertaking some research into bullet journaling. However, a gratitude log doesn’t have to be a beautified page of text and doodles, a simple list will suffice.
Each day, write down one thing that you are grateful for. Like me, you may find it tough to begin with. Staring at the paper with little inspiration is frustrating but it certainly is not a waste of time. It is the beginning of the evolution.
NOTHING IS SILLY
One of the things I found is that I felt silly. Initially, I felt that I needed to be grateful for bigger things, things that ‘meant something’. Then, I sat back and questioned why I felt that way. Ultimately, I was just making the job more difficult. Therefore, I made myself stop feeling silly and chose, that day, to be grateful for my snuggly duvet. You could also consider things such as the first sip of life-saving coffee, perhaps a moment of sunshine as it streams through the window or the heat of a relaxing evening bath.
FEEL THE CHANGE
Over time, practising gratitude becomes easier. Similar to mindfulness, in which you train your brain to take notice of the present, gratitude teaches your brain to look for the things that you appreciate. After a week of practising gratitude, select two things from each day and so on. Just this morning I passed by a window with the sun streaming through. Feeling it on my face stopped me and I felt a few moments of joy as it warmed my skin. I knew immediately that I had been missing this over the winter months and felt grateful for the fact that my window catches the sunlight in such a way. It felt wonderful.
As I mentioned previously, all this is from my own experiences. From a gallivanting youngster who was never satisfied, to a more selfless version of myself, navigating life with a more grateful perspective and feeling the benefits of doing so. Life is tough and being grateful is not always easy. Nevertheless, finding ways to enjoy this precious time is definitely something for which to strive.