I know. Everyone loves to talk about gratitude. We live in a time where, god help us, we have to be told to be grateful and if we can’t remember it on our own, we are told to keep a gratitude journal. Now, I love this and I love gratitude as much as the next person and I suspect I am more grateful than some and not as grateful as others. But do we really need to fill the pages with notes of gratitude or should we perhaps focus on something else? Like anxiety. Or being overwhelmed. Or stress. Or anger. Before you get mad at me (although that might be good start to your journal) let me explain.
I think sometimes we shove our sadness, worries, anxieties, stresses and heartbreak down. We shove it so far down our throats we think that if we can’t see it or feel it, it’s not there. We think that if we don’t talk about it and if we “focus on the positives” that it will go away. That we will feel all better. But like a person who fills their stomach with so much food that they feel bloated and sick, eventually you’ll need to vomit. Eventually it will be like reflux and it will come up at all the wrong times. Like with your kids, your spouse, your boss or perhaps worse, another driver on the road.
So, here’s what I suggest. Put the gratitude journal aside. You don’t have to burn it, just put it away for now. We know you’re grateful for your eyes, your health and for clean air. Start a new journal. Make three columns. One for what happened. One for how you felt. And one for how you dealt with it. Like this:
You had a mammogram. You felt scared and freaked out. You ate a pint of ice cream.
Your boss said “we need to talk”. You were stressed and scared. You got into an argument with your wife.
This will put on a spotlight on your patterns. You will start to see how you deal with general crap and how you deal with scary crap and how you deal with really big, over the top life changing crap. You can’t stop the scary stuff from happening but you can, every once in while, see the familiarity in your reaction and perhaps stop the madness. It won’t work every time because you’re not a robot. But maybe some of the time you can say to yourself “Oh. Okay. This is scary and I am stressed but I know from experience, that deep diving on Web MD isn’t the right thing to do. I should just wait to see what the doctor says before I react.” Wouldn’t this be great for you and for everyone in your life? Because when you are stressed and overwhelmed and anxious and you over eat or over shop or over sleep you affect everyone in your life.
Okay, in closing, gratitude is great. But walking around and finding the silver lining all of the time, won’t make all the bad crap go away. You’re merely putting it on hold. But don’t wallow. Don’t use your scary stuff as an excuse to sit around drinking and binge watching Netflix. But don’t blow it off either. Find the middle. Even with Netflix. Even if it’s really good.