I Choose… Gratitude

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For the last several years, I became vividly aware that on the moment I began to wake up in the morning, my mind began to race. All of the things I had to do, all of my responsibilities, all of the things I didn’t get done from the day before and all of the reasons that I would prefer to go back to sleep, would come flooding in as if they were all waiting, in a row like transports at a road closure, ready to bombard my mind, when I awoke.

For quite some time, I tried several ways to resolve this. Finally, I found something that worked.

There is a concept called, neuroplasticity, that has become quite interesting to me. I have come to understand neuroplasticity as the brain’s ability to change, throughout our lives. Our experiences, our mindsets and our habits tend to wire our brain in a certain way. With a shift in perspective and a conscious effort to shape our thoughts, our brain can actually rewire itself, much like optimizing the performance of a computer.

I become so fascinated with this science that I have applied the idea that rewiring my brain is possible, in my own life. I found that my bad habit of waking in the morning with dread on my mind, when the circumstances around me were not the case, could be changed.

The one thing that actually worked, to shift my experience of waking, was to implement the following words, ‘I am grateful for _______________’ and then filling in the blank, the second that I become conscious that I was awake. Even if I hadn’t even opened my eyes, turned on a light or left the bed, I would begin the ritual of saying those words, followed by something I was grateful for, over and over again.

I am grateful for things like a warm bed, the sun shining through our back window, a soft pillow, hugs from my husband, seeing my beautiful daughter smiling, reading to my bright three-year old grandson, after he finished bouncing around our home and staring lovingly at my other new grandpeanut.

I list people, family, nature, places, adventures and experiences that I am grateful for, in order to set my mind in the right direction. It is a powerful way to wake up in the morning, for sure.

I once heard that often times we don’t get the things we want in our lives until we are grateful for the things we already have. If there was an invisible device recording all of our thoughts, words and conversations, throughout each day, what would that recorder be capturing? Actually, there is; it is called our brain.

Do we tend to complain a lot more than we express gratitude, or the other way around? Do we build people up, more than we put them down, even in our head? Are we learning and growing or blaming and shaming? Are we appreciative or are we in ‘lack’ mentality? Are we kind or are we mean? Are we healing or are we festering?

This philosophy of only attracting into our lives when we can fully appreciate what we already have going for us can be eye opening, perspective shifting and transformational, if we are willing to take it seriously. I once heard something to the tune of, ‘What if tomorrow, you only woke up with the things that you were grateful for today?’ (Original Author Unknown)

That phrase was extremely powerful for me. I began to quickly list everyone and everything I could think of. Now, when I rhyme off my list, I am sure to add, ‘And everything that I have ever been grateful for or should have been grateful for, but missed.’

This habit has been something that I have done for years, even though I never thought to do it faithfully, first thing in the morning. I usually did it when driving in my car, when life was particularly stressful, when I was sitting or standing somewhere, waiting for an appointment and often before going to sleep. Adding this exercise, immediately upon waking, has helped me to start my day on the right foot.

Sometimes, I am in such a good mood, afterwards, that I will be staring at my sleeping husband like one of those creepy clowns, as it tilts its head, staring through a dark window. My hubby will look at me, suspiciously, as he wakes up, wondering why I am so chipper. If that is the worse thing that can happen from morning gratitude thoughts, I will take it. It sure beats feeling like doom and gloom, before my feet even hit the floor.

In an article titled, ‘7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round’ at Forbes.com, it states that, ‘Gratitude improves psychological health. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.’

Gratitude has been proven to assist in rewiring our brains. Gratitude is free to do. Gratitude is available to everyone. Gratitude can be done right now. Giving and receiving gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation feels good to give and to receive and we can be contagious, in a positive and helpful way to those around us when we start doing this more often.

In my life, I now constantly choose an attitude of gratitude. I say ‘thank you’ in my head, I say ‘thank you’ out loud, and I say ‘thank you’ as many times in a day, as I can. Gratitude is like any exercise, if you want it to work, you have to do it regularly. If there is anything that I appreciate, I do my best to remember to express it.

If things aren’t going great for you, you can try this simple tool, ‘I am grateful for __________.’ If you can not list at least 10 things, people or experiences, off the top of your head, then it might worth giving this activity some attention and energy. I have found that most people who are grateful, on a daily basis, are happier; and not just the other way around.

Have a blessed day and week ahead. I am grateful you are reading!

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This week’s photos, article links and inspiring quotes can be found at www.facebook.com/JulieHryniewicz.

Some of Julie’s past columns and talk shows have included: ‘This Rocky Life’, ‘Life is Too Short’, ‘Motivational Minute’, ‘Life, Chocolate & The Pursuit of Sanity’, ‘Candid Conversations’, ‘The Scoop’ and ‘What’s On My Mind’.