It’s possible to feel joy and gratitude in the midst of worry, sadness, and even anger. Human beings are capable of complex emotions, and finding gratitude in stressful times is good for you, both mentally and physically.
This quick activity is a great mindfulness technique for eliciting joy and gratitude. Give it a try and see what happens.
Step One: Notice what you’re thinking about. If you are worried, don’t try to push your concerns away, but don’t focus on them either. Just recognize that you do have concerns and they are real.
Step Two: Consider what’s happening right now. Do you need to take immediate action on any of your concerns? If there’s something you need to do right now, go do it. If not, acknowledge that your concerns are for the past or the future but are not present in this immediate moment.
Step Three: Focus on this moment – not on what occurred in the past or what might occur in the future, but simply on what is present right now.
Look around until you notice something that is interesting or pleasant, and then focus your attention completely on it for about 60 seconds. Take your time and notice the details – the colors… the shapes… the texture… What do you particularly appreciate? Look more closely at what is most attractive or interesting about it.
Take a deep breath and recognize how good it feels to be present in the moment, appreciating what is here. And say a silent thank you.
You’ll find that even just 60 seconds renews your energy and sense of connection.
Even though this is so easy to do when you’re intentional, we don’t do it naturally because we’re hardwired to focus on what’s negative. According to neuroscientist Rick Hanson, our brains are “Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity.” But if you do this simple activity frequently, those 60 seconds will add up. And, as an additional benefit, you’ll also begin to rewire your brain for positivity.
Jesse, you’re spot on when you said, “we’re hardwired to focus on what’s negative.” It’s essential to look at all the positive aspects instead of worrying about the unknown. I also think this occurs way too often in the business setting.
Indeed. It occurs way too often in all settings. The part of our brain that ensured the survival of our primitive ancestors detects negative information faster than positive information and is drawn to bad news. We must be intentional about refocusing our attention in order to over-ride these primitive reactions.
Those negative thoughts come again and again depending on the intensity of pain they put you in. But we have to keep trying to change the focus all the time. It helps. I believe that time heals it…. most of the times, but that may take much time!
I agree, Suneet. And I believe we also need help to face and heal our wounds in a supportive environment.
I also believe that we should understand that whatever is happening with me is invited by me only. No one to be blamed for anything. I must have sown such seeds in past. I have to bear the fruit now. If we keep on reminding this fact to ourselves, we would feel better and would also refrain from doing bad deeds in future. It is easy to forgive yourself than someone else!
For sure, we need help always, as you said. Things are easily said than done.
These are great steps for choosing how you want to feel in the moment. If often tell my clients, “You can decide to be angry or sad, but make it a conscious choice. Then you can choose to feel gratitude, passion, or love when you are want to as well.”
Great points. And we choose our feelings by where we focus our attention. There’s an important distinction between choosing feelings and suppressing them. Much thanks for sharing your wisdom here, Marcia.
A beautiful post Jesse, when you mention “look around you” I find something that allows me to smile – a simple smile changes our body chemistry and always helps me restore balance.
Great appreciation for your work and blessings into the holiday season
Appreciate your commenting on the power of a smile, Carl. You reminded me of this HBR article on The Science Behind the Smile by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert. He found the main ways to increase happiness are “to commit to some simple behaviors—meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep—and to practice altruism. One of the most selfish things you can do is help others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. You may or may not help the homeless, but you will almost surely help yourself. And nurture your social connections. Twice a week, write down three things you’re grateful for, and tell someone why.”