You are surrounded by potential stressors.
Notice I used the word potential. You may not have much control over whether they occur, but you do have control over whether they create stress for you.
Here’s a simple method to vaccinate yourself against the harmful effects of stress.
Try it with me now. Think about three specific things you are grateful for that happened in the last 24 hours. Once you have them in mind, go ahead and reflect on them for a few minutes. Think about what happened. Maybe you can figure out why it happened. Consider why you feel good about it.
And when you are finished reflecting, notice your stress level. Would you say it’s higher, lower, or about the same as it was just a few minutes ago? I’m betting it’s lower.
If you need some help knowing how to do this, perhaps Maria from The Sound of Music can get you in the right frame of mind.
You Control Your Thoughts
Our feelings follow our thoughts. And thoughts are influenced by where we choose to place our attention. Focus on problems and frustration, and you will feel worse. Focus on good things and you’re likely to feel better.
Here’s an example. One night an ice storm hit the Twin Cities. Scores of people were caught away from home with roads covered in glare ice. I was lucky to have gotten home less than an hour before it hit.
If I would have been in it, I can imagine my thoughts turning quickly to not being able to get home or being hurt in an accident. The result of those thoughts would have been stress and fear.
The next morning, I looked out the window to watch with interest as a paper boy was “skating” across the street. It was fun to watch a salt truck running in reverse to create traction for itself.
Make the Right Assessment
It’s not the event itself that creates the stress and bad feelings. Rather it’s our assessment of the situation and our thoughts that create good or bad feelings. It was the same ice storm for everyone, but we all used our specific situations and predispositions to interpret it. For some that generated stress. For others, delight.
Gratitude is a thought-changer. Even in tough times, thinking about the goodness in our lives changes our focus from stress-inducing to stress-reducing thoughts. And there’s a multiplier effect that kicks in as well. Think of one thing you are grateful for and you’ll start to notice others as well. This multiplier works in reverse too. So it’s important to have it working for you, rather than against you.
Since you tried reflecting on gratitude today, you may as well think about it again tomorrow. Repeat each day this week. Then continue until it becomes a habit. You’ll be glad that you did.