I was going to write about Acceptance next, as another transformative tool that can help us through challenging situations. But before I do that, I feel called to write about Gratitude. “Gratitude bestows reverence, changing forever how we experience life and the world,” John Milton said. I had a long conversation this week with a friend who is experiencing a painful and difficult transition. There’s been the excruciating loss of a beloved pet, a recent move back to her childhood home state, family issues that aren’t unfolding as she would hope, among other things. My heart went out to her. I felt her deep sadness and disappointment. As I listened to her, I kept thinking about a powerful magic potion that can instantly change the channel: an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes finding even the littlest thing to be grateful for can create a happier frame of mind. And all it takes is a pen and a piece of paper and a willingness to find the good.
One of my favorite authors, Rick Hanson, talks about humanity’s negative bias. This was a survival tool in prehistoric times, when the belief that there was a tiger in the bushes could save a life by eliciting our fight or flight response, even if it was a mistaken premise. He talks about how we have developed velcro brains for the bad stuff that happens and tephlon brains for the good things. In his book, “Hardwiring Happiness”, he shares how one can create new pathways in the brain by a mental process he terms “HEAL” standing for Have, Enrich, Absorb and Link. He says that “whatever we repeatedly sense, feel and believe makes real changes in our neural networks.”
I know from my own experience that it is not always easy to change the channel or even to find the darn remote! But I have also found that if I can just start thinking about and writing down some of my many blessings I am transported to a better state of being. As recently as May, I felt stuck in the Neutral Zone that William Bridges speaks of. I was battling the fear of financial insecurity, and not seeing a way out. Reaching out for help from a financial advisor, attending a women’s retreat on self-acceptance called “As You Are”, and changing my mind set to one of appreciation for what I do have, gave me an ability to see the presence of possibility where before there was none. It was this willingness to switch my perspective that turned things around. In the next few weeks I had found a new, and better paying job, much closer to home, and we got a seemingly impossible mortgage approval to buy our own house (something we had all but given up on). Thus gratitude started flowing effortlessly. And here’s a little secret I found: Gratitude breeds more gratitude.