Growing Gratitude 

Garden of the Mind

When I am struggling with anxiety, this Bible verse has come to mind many times in my life and reminded me to be still…

Psalm 46:10 

Be still and know that I am God…

When I am reminded to be still, I also can calm myself by “knowing” or reminding myself that:

  • God loves me.
  • I am child of God.
  • I have a loving family.
  • My dog is a wonderful companion.
  • I am alive and well.
  • No weapon formed against me shall prosper. (Isaiah 54:17)
  • I have a safe home.
  • I have a dependable vehicle.
  • I am mobile and independent.
  • I have many gifts and talents.
  • I have friends who love me. 
  • I have a heart for helping others.

Wow! After writing those few positive things down to affirm that life isn’t spinning around me in chaos after all or that I’m not failing at everything (the opposite of what my anxious mind tells me) I start to feel lighter and more hopeful…and less anxious. 

Writing lists of gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal has been a trend for many years now. Oprah is a believer in this practice and usually by the time it catches on in self-help/pop psychology it becomes eye-roll worthy when suggested as a method of self-care. Many nod their heads and say “oh yes, I’ll do that one day”…but then life gets busy and one gets caught up in their anxieties all over again and forget to “be still and know.”

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress, busyness, etc. try this exercise below if a list or a daily practice of gratitude journaling is too much:

  • Write down and/or visualize just one positive thing in your life. 
  • Clear out all the other negative thoughts and focus on this one shiny thing. 
  • Feel all the positive feelings that emanante from this positive object, memory, person, or experience. 
  • As other thoughts trickle into your mind, let them pass, wave to them if you need to, but focus on your positive thought. 
  • Meditate on this thought for at least 1 minute, but stay focused on it for as long as you like. 

How did this exercise make you feel? Please share in the comments if it helped you in any way. Do you keep any type of journal? Do you have a habit of expressing gratitude or try to cultivate a thankful heart in other ways? 
💜👩🏻‍🌾

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Midnight Mindfulness

Garden of the Mind


I read lots of self-help articles when I’m in bed with insomnia that help me sometimes. Some of these articles have experts who explain that that living in the present moment leads to an increased sense of contentment.  I am working on mindfulness and figuring out if it works for managing anxiety and overall contentment.
Last week, my therapist walked me through a mindfulness technique during our session:

  • We chose a point in the room to focus on.
  • We took slow deep breaths in for the count of eight
  • held the breath for the count of eight
  • and then released the breath for the count of eight 
  • remember to breathe from the diaphragm-not shallow breaths in the chest alone
  • Repeat 8-10 times or just as many as you need unless your mind calms. 

This was not the first time I had been taught a similar technique for managing anxiety. I needed a refresher since it had been about 6 years since my last lesson. 

My therapist told me to use this exercise to become more mindful and we would talk more about mindfulness in our next session. 

Mindfulness. What is it exactly? 

 

How do you practice mindfulness in your life? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you. 💜👩🏻‍🌾

Contentment, meet Fulfillment…

Garden of the Mind

2011-through-early-2012-743

Being content and fulfilled is another seemingly lofty goal that I have had for the last decade or so.  The quote on my photo above reminds us that we can be content now. Today.  Even if everything’s not perfect.  As a recovering perfectionist, I understand that this can be a very difficult practice to adopt into one’s life:

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have. – unknown

I have improved in recent times, but still today, if I’m not careful, I can assign high expectations to the next milestone of life as if it could be the oasis in the desert of whatever life stage I am currently experiencing.

A quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, written by Richard Linklater, describes this common human experience:

dazed

Richard Linklater

I loved the movie Dazed and Confused so much as a high school kid because it so accurately depicted our common urge to rush through childhood because we thought that the freedom of adulthood was going to be way better than this dependent child thing.

As many angst-filled adolescents, in high school, I was wishing for college freedom.  Spreading my wings and becoming a college grad would bring me contentment and fulfillment, right?

Wrong. While approaching college graduation, contentment was delayed while I focused on starting graduate school ASAP.  Sure, I paused for about 2 months and basked in my accomplishment (and the sun at my cushy lifeguard job).

I was definitely content those two months.  However, as content as I was that summer, I was not yet fulfilled because I was in a state of countdown once again – to graduate school so that I could fulfill my lifelong goal of attaining a master’s degree.  Surely that would leave to contentment and fulfillment, right?

Yes and no.  There were times, after achieving that lifelong goal, when I felt content and fulfilled in many areas of my life.  But, at the same time, I felt discontent and unfulfilled because I was wishing for a mate.  I didn’t think that I could feel fulfilled or content until I found “the one.”  In my mind, meeting and marrying him was what would bring me eternal contentment and fulfillment.

Do you see how I always think I’m, as Linklater says, reading the preamble to my own life…waiting for it to start?

Even as I’m now happily married, the life goals have turned into having kids, buying our dream home, etc.  To this day, Contentment and Fulfillment only visit me periodically.  They haven’t decided to move in and stay a while…or maybe it’s that I haven’t accepted them as part of my life?

I hear this country song called, “You’re Gonna Miss This” on the radio sometimes which as lyrics sound like something my Dad would say to me about this feeling of chasing happiness and rushing through today to get to tomorrow.  See below:

trace-adkins

Trace Adkins, You’re Gonna Miss This

 

Thankfully, in the last few years, I have taken song lyrics like this and others to heart and have learned more about being mindful of the present moment in order to notice my own contentment and fulfillment.

I’m learning that there is contentment and fulfillment in big and small things every day.  We just have to take time to notice them.

Days get busy and over-scheduled.  Life’s demands tug us in many directions.  Everyone wants a piece of us sometimes.  And yes, we have to give a lot of ourselves away, as we should.  But, as we give ourselves away, we must remember that self-care comes before everything else in order to stay healthy and balanced.  At least, this is true for me.

One of my favorite songwriters, Paul Simon, echoes my repetitive search for contentment and fulfillment in his song, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”  He tells us that “the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip sliding away,” which to me, has translated to: the closer we get to the next major milestone in life, the more life we have behind us…and while life passes by, moments of contentment and fulfillment may be missed while we are searching or hoping for happiness…instead of being mindful of what there is to be grateful for today…what’s right in front of us…even if today is imperfect…because life will always be imperfect.  I’m learning that imperfections make our lives unique and sometimes even beautiful.

In this same song, Simon describes a woman who “became a wife (and tells us that) these were the very words she uses to describe her life”:

slipslidingaway_edited-1-copy

Paul Simon, Slip Slidin Away

I have sung these lyrics many times, seeing myself as the woman who “became a wife” thinking that marriage would be happily ever after.  I know that when I’m depressed or anxious I’m the woman who lies in bed of thinks of things that might have been.  In those moments and all others, I strive to remind myself to focus on what is going right today…like a day with no rain.