I find it really easy in the hustle and bustle of our modern world to feel overwhelmed and become frustrated. Especially when there are messages of discontent, suffering, disagreement, and pain all around us. When my mind feels bombarded with those things, it can produce negative thoughts and my perspective of situations around me can nosedive to a dark place! The great news is that I have the power to soar above that darkness using practices of gratitude and mindfulness techniques that I have used as a Certified Child Life Specialist. These help to redirect my focus from negative thoughts to uplifting my spirit and allowing me to more easily choose an attitude of gratitude. I hope to help you understand gratitude and mindfulness and reduce your own stress in this article. I aim for you to increase your ability to choose gratitude through the tips about mindfulness practices below. First, let’s take a look at what gratitude is.
Gratitude has a variety of definitions but basically the Oxford and Merriam Webster dictionaries conclude that it is a feeling of thankfulness towards others and the world. It contains a readiness to show appreciation to yourself and others and to return kindness. What does the Bible have to say about gratitude? I have learned it is important for me to take what the world says about something and compare it to what the Word says. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” and in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Taking these insights, I put together 5 sets of tips to help you choose gratitude and become more present with mindfulness practices.
Renew your mind with the Word of God
I find that when I take a few minutes each morning as I wake to renew my mind with God’s truth that it changes me. In the morning, it helps my mind start out with a clear, positive focus to read that God wants what is best for me and that He has plans for my life. You can use a devotional to help you or simply open the Bible to any page and begin to read.
In the evening, closing out the day with God’s Word helps take my worries away so I can rest peacefully. If I am not up for reading myself, then I let the Bible app speak to me and typically fall asleep to it. That is completely acceptable and I know that the Word of God has power even if spoken over me while I rest. If your burdens are heavy or you are stressed about the day to come and feel restless, try keeping a small notebook by the bed to write down the items you are thinking of. When a thought pops up, acknowledge it. Does it need to be written down to get it out of your head? If so, write it down then leave it there until morning. Sometimes reading your thoughts back to yourself help you to realize that they are thoughts coming from the enemy.
Renew yourself with the power of presence
This means to take at least 5 or more minutes a day to give to yourself. You may be wondering how that is actually possible. You might say, she has no clue how busy I am. Well, I used to be a work-a-holic, I changed. I used to be stressed so often that I got ulcers, I changed. I now am a mom of a toddler who is super active, I find balance. The point is, that you can choose to find a few minutes a day, at least, for yourself.
Find what works best for your personal self. If you are used to being in motion all the time, you may need to choose to be still. If you are more comfortable being still, you may want to try to move your body. It may seem awkward and challenging at first to do the opposite of what you may be comfortable doing, but your brain will create new patterns and feel refreshed.
If your body needs rest, find a comfortable space where you can be present to yourself, still, and aware of how your body feels in the moment. You can then meditate (thinking on things that bring you joy) and practice deep breathing with inhales through your nose for a count of three and out through your mouth for a count of three. Repeating this several times.
If your body needs motion, you may benefit from taking a walk in nature with no connection to technology. Observe the sounds and views around you without distraction. While heightening your senses, begin to silently say thank you to everything around you that you are grateful for.
Renew yourself with creativity
Write down vertically each letter of the alphabet and write something beside each letter that you are grateful for.
Take a photo of something that inspires gratitude for you and look at it often thinking of why the image makes you thankful. What about the picture makes you warm and fuzzy inside?
Color, journal, or draw. You may use any of these creative methods of self-expression to slow down and see what comes from your inner self.
Renew yourself with mindfulness
Imagine your favorite place, take yourself there in your mind and spend some time feeling, seeing, smelling what is around you that brings you comfort and peace. For me, if not around my family, I often think about the times we have been together and what I love most about them.
Notice your body and the parts of it that support you. Your hard working hands or feet. The back that holds you up. You may notice ailments or injuries. Notice them briefly, then shift your focus to thanking the healthy, supportive parts of your body for what they do.
Renew yourself and others by sharing gratitude
Share what you are thankful for with others over lunch or at the supper table. You may use a premade tool to spark up the conversation or simply just share what comes to mind.
Reach out to someone by text, email, phone call, or letter and let them know why you are grateful for them. Giving gratitude often brings about feelings of thankfulness for the one giving it.
Remember to affirm yourself with statements that build you up. I love to use the Word of God but I also just write a few things down that I need to remember. Simple words such as “Self-Compassion” have been my focus this year. I give a lot more of that to others than myself and so keeping the words in front of me helps me remember that I too deserve to have compassion.
I hope you use these many ideas of choosing gratitude and mindfulness practices to create a sense of peace, calm, and joy in your life this season. Feel free to share other ideas or how it goes when you try the above ideas out. Many blessings to each of you, I am very thankful to have you on this journey of life with me.