About 15 years ago I suffered from panic attacks.
When I would go to the doctor for help they would simply tell me I needed to calm down and send me home.
After being turned away several times somewhere inside of myself I found the answer to my panic attacks even though the doctors had dismissed me.
What I did was went home pulled out a spiral notebook and created a T-Chart.
On the left side of the paper I wrote down everything that I was worried about and on the right side I wrote down steps I could take to solve the problem.
If I didn’t know what to do about an issue I would write “God will take care of it” in the right hand column beside the problem.
As a person of faith I used my belief in a higher power to help me to believe that ultimately everything would work out.
Additionally, I would write a list of whatever it was that I needed that I didn’t have the financial means on hand to receive.
As I would acquire the things I needed I would cross them off the list. Each time I crossed things off I took notice of how with time all my needs were met.
Those exercises taught me that everything will be alright and helped me to stop having panic attacks because ultimately I was putting the things in my life in proper perspective.
In 2014, I was listening to Oprah Winfrey speak to a couple about the benefits of a gratitude journal. They explained to her how they noticed a significant improvement in their relationship once they began a daily practice of writing down five things that they were grateful for.
This reminded me of how several years ago I explained to my children the importance of naming five things in life that they are thankful for on a daily basis.
Often during car trips I would have them name to me five things that they were grateful for.
They especially heard me say this whenever they would come to me offering up a complaint about their lives.
While I know they have no idea why I did that, the purpose behind it was because I recognized the importance of putting things in proper perspective.
Interestingly enough just a few days ago I was reading a book by Dr. Daniel Amen called “Change your Brain Change Your Body” where he wrote about how practicing gratitude and writing down five things that you are grateful for can improve your mind in as little as three weeks by helping you to stop automatic negative thoughts from playing in your mind.
It is my firm belief that gratitude is powerful, because I have seen it demonstrated in my own life.
Additionally, there is something about seeing things in writing that adds to that power.
Last year I lost sight of the positive things in my life and I fell into a deep depression. I decided to attend church in an attempt to gain some mental clarity. While there the pastor helped me to become aware of the fact that thanksgiving is the antidote of anxiety. This brought into remembrance my practice of journaling what I was grateful for and in turn helped me to lift myself out of a place of dread and despair.
I don’t believe that living a life of worry, despair and anxiety at the same time I am practicing gratitude and thanksgiving is possible.
Simply because they are opposing emotions.
So I have chosen to live the latter.
For example, the other day I had something happen that I found to be upsetting and I became angry and upset.
However, when I took the time out to recognize the blessings in my life I was able to reduce my anger significantly.
I also decided to change what I thought about the event. I purposely decided to look at the thought and let go of the negative aspects of it.
This isn’t about being a Pollyanna and turning a blind eye to the things around me.
This is about opening my eyes and being clear about what is really surrounding me.
When I think of what happened and I put it into proper perspective my anger subsides.
As Byron Katie says, “It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts that causes suffering”.
I am not in denial about what has taken place in my life but I refuse to allow it to control my life.
I realize that I do not have to hold on to painful thoughts.
Furthermore, I have found worry to be absolutely pointless.
Understand that you cannot change anything by worrying so there really is no reason to do it.
As a matter of fact worrying takes time away from what you could be actively doing to improve your situation.
It is this understanding that motivates me to do my best not to worry because it is a waste.
My life is not the best, however it is blessed.
And for that reason I constantly give thanks for the things in my life.
A few days ago I decided to not just audibly give thanks but to also restart a gratitude journal as well as my T-Chart practice whenever a problem arises and my list of daily needs being met.
I don’t like having negative thoughts playing through my mind on repeat and so I am taking active steps to input positive ones into my mind.
In my journal I write down five positive things that happened to me that day that I am thankful for.
I go beyond the generic – I am thankful for good health and give more detail as to why I am thankful. For example I might write:
I am that I am healthy enough to have been able to stand on my feet and complete my shift at work which allowed me to have a source of income and put me in position for advancement in the workplace.
I give thanks for having enough money to buy a nutritious meal which helped to nourish my body and give me strength for the day.
And I may also give thanks for the person who complimented me on my looks and made me feel positive about myself.
Dr. Amen explains that it is important not just to write down what you think you “should” feel thankful for but what you are actually thankful for.
When we mix emotion and truth behind our gratitude is has the power to improve our day.
It is my desire to gain a greater appreciation for the life that I have.
I have spent a lot of my life focusing on what was wrong with my life and myself.
I figured it was high time I start focusing on what is right.
Scripture says that whoever is faithful in little things can be trusted with much.
I think that sometimes we don’t appreciate the little things because we are constantly eyeballing the big things and spending the bulk of our time wondering why we don’t have “big things”.
Never despise small beginnings.
I know this may seem cliché but there really are people who envy the life you are living because theirs is more tumultuous.
Take appreciation for where you are on the way to where you are going.
Practice embracing your now.
I know that my life is not perfect but I also know that it is fulfilling.
There are things that I would like to have that I don’t and situations I would like to be in that I am not.
But when I really look at my life I am blessed.
I have a sound mind, positive relationships, and a sense of comfort.
My health is not the best but I have the capability of transforming it and I am taking positive steps to do so.
My career is not in the position that I would like it to be in however, I have the tools and avenues to get it there and I know that it will get back on track.
I have a strong desire to have a healthy romantic relationship and at the proper time I will have one. Right now I am thankful that I reached a point where I realized that I am worthy of one. I am enjoying my life as a single woman and working on becoming a woman who can maintain a healthy and positive romantic relationship by learning my true value and worth as well as relationship skills.
My life is not all bad.
For all the things that need improvement, I have the ability to improve.
In my past I spent an excessive amount of time laying on my couch feeling sorry for myself.
I was choosing to live a defeated life.
By acknowledging what my blessings are and putting them into writing I have started to go to bed with positive thoughts and in turn wake up feeling positive.
I appreciate waking up in a positive state of mind because there was a time when I would wake up replaying the same negative thoughts that I had fell asleep with.
To be honest, I had the script of negativity running so strongly in my mind that I would even dream about all of my heartache and pain.
Sometimes the thoughts were strong enough to cause me to wake up angry and with my hearth pounding.
Since I started writing what I am grateful for right before bedtime those negative thoughts have subsided.
I wanted to take the time out to encourage you to start a gratitude journal if you haven’t already.
Additionally, please thank the people in your life who bring you kindness and blessings.
As you show gratitude for what you have you open the door for more to come.
Personally, I don’t practice a life of gratitude for more to come (it is inevitable that it will happen). I practice it because it makes my life more peaceful.
I desire a peaceful life and this is a way for me to have it.
I know that problems will arise, but I want to overcome them with the least amount of stress possible.
And I have found that when I am actively aware of the fact that I have far more goodness surrounding me than I do bad it helps me to focus on the good and have peace of mind.
Putting things in proper perspective is essential to a healthy well being.
If you find yourself saying things like:
Nothing ever works out for me.
People always let me down.
I never have enough money.
No one cares about me.
These are red flags that you do not have things in proper perspective.
When you make an absolute statement in the extreme negative I assert that you are not being honest about your situation.
Some times things don’t work out but what about the times that they do?
Many people have failed you, but if you search the recesses of your mind you will find someone who didn’t (even if it the clerk at the store who gave you correct change).
You may not have enough money to do what you want, but you clearly had enough money to survive the day.
Maybe those people don’t care about you but someone does (and it’s often the person you are pushing away).
I invite you to join me in starting a gratitude journal, using the T-Chart method I described earlier to help you to relinquish any thoughts of worry and making a list of your needs to remind you of how they are being met.
I want you to become the best you that you can be and I am going to work on being my best me!
© Renata Pittman Smith, Renata Nicole and RenataNicole, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Renata Pittman Smith and RenataNicole with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.