Ever go through something so trying that you stop being able to see clearly? Of course you have. Everyone in the history of this planet has. That's life, right? Did you know that ongoing stress causes sickness and disease? Did you know it could quite literally kill you? Did you know that you really do have the power to change it? And not just with medication - but with a very simple behavior modification?
Last year, I was so stressed out. We were going through this tremendous life change, and to be honest, I wasn't sure we were going to make it. I was operating under the fear of "What if?" Not the good "What ifs?" either - the off the wall, completely unproductive, "what if there's an earthquake and that light fixture falls right on my face" type of "What if?" Random, right? It's that kind of unhealthy thought pattern that keeps you stuck in a rut. Worrying about things you can't change, focusing on small trivial perceived negative things that happen, thinking the glass is half empty, thinking you're the only person in the world to go through hard times - none of this is productive or healthy. It is, however, a completely normal and very human reaction to stress. Unfortunately, it's a very difficult rut to get out of.
Walking or hiking outdoors has always been my chosen therapy. Since back on my Aunt & Uncle's farm in South Georgia, even. If I can walk somewhere, 9 times out of 10, I do. I made this a way of life in Seoul, and it's something that has carried over to our life here in L.A. So, every time I'd walk to the grocery store to get our food for our dinner, I'd come across a brand new homeless person on the street corner or in front of the store begging for food. Every day there's a brand new person. It was a healthy dose of reality slapping me in the face every time I left the house. No matter what, my family was able to eat. No matter what, my family had a roof over our head. No matter what, we have each other. Food & shelter - that's far more than L.A.'s homeless population has, right? How ungrateful could I be faced with such a harsh reality?
How could I stop being ungrateful?
So, sometime last year I instituted a new mealtime tradition. My friend Karen had been urging me to keep a gratitude journal and write down something I was grateful for everyday. After reading up on it, I decided to go one step further and involve the whole family. Every night at mealtime, every person around the table shares 1 bad thing, 1 good thing, and 1 thing they're grateful for from their day. If we have guests, they participate, too. We call this "The Good, The Bad & the Grateful." By starting with the bad first, you get it out of the way and off your chest. It is then cleared out and washed away by the 2 goods you share. Your daily "goods" then outnumber your "bads." By vocalizing this, not just thinking it, you make your daily "goods" outnumbering your "bads" a reality in your subconscious. You're essentially tricking your brain into only remembering the good stuff.
Not only is this a great nightly family conversation, and not only does it keep you connected to your family despite spending the day apart - but over time, it COMPLETELY changes the way you think. You stop focusing on the negative and you start appreciating all the positive things in your life. After a while, you realize that no one is even sharing a single bad thing anymore. Everyone only wants to talk about their good and their grateful. You'll notice your own thoughts changing. Trivial things that used to stress you out stop bothering you. You become....happy. Your family is happy.
Your life has totally changed. All by one little evening ritual.
It's not instananeous, and our life is far from perfect. We still individually have bad days - that's human. However, as a whole, we are now HAPPY. Our lives are now full of happiness and gratitude and by default, ABUNDANCE. All the what ifs and the imperfections only serve to add color to our story and make it uniquely ours.
No bad today, Mom! But let me tell you about what happened in P.E. today!