I used to be a major jerk. If you know me today or follow my Instagram where I authentically share about myself, my struggles and tips for anxiety, I would hope that would come as a surprise to you. People are often shocked when I tell them how I used to see the world and view other people – even people who thought they knew me years ago. I was a quiet one, so people thought that meant I was nice. No, I just kept all my feelings and thoughts about others a secret.
I was the kind of person who liked to people-watch, not because I found people interesting, but because I thought they were beneath me. I liked to make fun of people, just never to their faces. I was spineless and arrogant and full of pride. Then I found out I was an introvert and thought that meant I hated people and was better off without them. I was a jerk. I was a major jerk.
Oh, how the turntables have…
I struggled with depression for such a long time, I felt so isolated and alone. I had no real friendships because I’d never opened up to anyone and accepted them as they are because I didn’t imagine a world where they would accept me as I was – and they shouldn’t have, as I mentioned, I was a jerk. Eventually, I realized I wanted real connections with others and that people were most often good.
I had a friend who was very bubbly and always optimistic. She brought so much light into any room she entered. She was always surrounded by friends and I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about her. I adored her and I wanted to know her secrets to this infectious joy because I wanted that for myself.
Turns out it’s gratitude. Being grateful, really grateful for all you have is the key to joyful living. I started by finding the things in my life that I should be grateful for, I tried making it a daily practice and soon I was listing things I’m grateful for at every chance.
In learning to be grateful I have discovered some truths.
1. I don’t dislike people, I was just used to looking for all the negatives about people because that’s what I grew up around.
2. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be around people, and it certainly doesn’t give me the right or reason to hate them, it simply means that I give my energy to those around me and need to take time to recover after socializing.
3. If I wanted to be joyful, I was going to have to make a major change in the way I viewed the world. I needed to see the good, be the good, and seek out the good.
What you look for, you will find. If you’re going to spend your time dwelling on all the bad things that could go wrong, you will only see the things that do go wrong. Likewise, if you choose to see what could go right, then that’s what you’re going to see.
3 Gratitude practices to change your world view.
1. Early morning gratitude scripting
Grab a hot cup of tea or coffee, sit in your happy place with your notebook, and script your gratitude. The go-to practice for gratitude is to list out 3-10 things you’re grateful for every day, this is going to take it a step farther. List out the things you’re grateful to have, then start listing out the things you WILL be grateful to have. Scripting is a way of writing out, in present tense, the things you wish to have or to be. Gratitude scripting is writing out all the things you wish to have, as if you already have them, and expressing gratitude for them.
2. Chaos-calming gratitude practice
This is the one that gets used the most around here. In the midst of chaos, especially if you get angry or anxious in stressful situations, begin practicing this: Pause, Breathe, Be grateful. If you can’t get away from the situation, just think to yourself the things you are grateful for in this situation. If you can sneak away, then write it down and make a physical list. The key to this exercise is going to be to make your gratitude a reflection of what’s causing you stress.
In most cases, for me, this is my children. Children are a beautiful chaos that disrupt our lives in all the best ways possible. When they are high energy and it’s causing me stress and anxiety, when Mean-Mom is threatening to come out (or already has), I take a moment to pause, breathe, and think of all the specific things I am grateful for about my children.
The great thing about this practice, is that it rewires your brain so that when stressful situations arise, you go to gratitude before you go to anger. I experienced this for the first time just a few weeks ago when my youngest broke the coffee carafe. My reaction was not immediate anger or frustration, but it was love and gratitude. I held him and told him I loved him, then calmly cleaned the mess. A previous version of me wouldn’t have even recognized myself in that moment.
3. Evening gratitude journaling
Too often we let our heads hit the pillow after a long day without taking the time to reflect. Specifically, we need to be taking the time to ask ourselves questions about today, to set us up for a good night’s sleep and a positive outlook on our morning. We can’t keep letting our last thoughts of the day be thinking of how difficult of a day it was, only feeling grateful that it’s finally over. What kind of a way is that to live? So ask yourself these questions before bed each night to reflect positively on your day.
- What went right today?
- What did you learn or how did you grow today?
- Who did you love, or who did you impact today?
By taking time to reflect and reassess the patterns of our behavior, over time, we will develop new habits that benefit us better and realign our mindsets for a positive outlook and a peaceful and joy filled way of living.