The world is a scary place these days, moving faster, changing, threatening to take away that which we depend on to “get by” in many cases. Those of us who have taken on primary caregiving duties may feel like we’re under siege, causing anxiety and depression in the face of those responsibilities.
We may feel hopeless or powerless, like we are out of control, which can create panic in those most vulnerable to these feelings. We truly have no real control and may try to create some somewhere just to feel OK. The problem is that when we try to exert undue influence over people, places and things, our actions are often met with resistance, discord or feelings of resentment. Also, when we get stuck in bemoaning the past or projecting our angst into the future, we waste our energy and exhaust ourselves. How can we possibly be happy or effective under these circumstances?
The truth is that our attitude has everything to do with how we weather the storms around us.
The first step is to accept everything as it is; much like creating a restore point on a computer. Applying an attitude of gratitude reprograms our nervous systems, calms us and rebalances us so that feelings of doom and gloom dissolve with the positive energy of gratitude. As human beings, these feelings come up. It’s ok to have unwanted feelings; they are our teachers. How wonderful that we can transform the worst of our feelings by embracing gratitude!
In her book, “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want,” Sonja Lyubomirsky breaks down how and why gratitude works. They are outlined here from her article, ”Eight Ways Gratitude Boosts Happiness,” on www.gratefulness.org:
1. Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.
2. Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
3. Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
4. The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior … grateful people are more likely to help others
5. Gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.
6. Expressing gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others.
7. The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.
8. Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation.
I urge you to practice expressing gratitude whenever possible. Whenever your feel overwhelmed or overtaken by negative thoughts, stop and make a gratitude list. Mentally note or even take a moment jot down several (3-5) things for which you are grateful. It will change how you perceive and move through the world.
Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of that question. — Tennessee Williams
Dr. Jamie co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.