In recovering from my ankle procedure, I have had a lot of time and opportunity to practice reframing the situation to turn it into a practice of gratitude. There have been many days when I have been in pain, or haven’t slept well because of said pain, or am simply frustrated beyond belief at the whole situation and want to be healed right now! And there have been times, when self-pity has invited me to party with her and simply wallow.
Enter a tool available to all of us: choice.
When I feel my breath quicken, my eyebrow furrow or my mood darken, I remind myself that I have a choice. And one choice I have is to HELP myself get better by having a positive attitude and believing in the best.
To activate that belief, I will often start by closing my eyes and focusing on simply breathing. I in-hale for a 4-count, hold the breath while I mentally say some focused idea (“perfect health,” or “grace is here,” “I am healed” – ideas to counter whatever I’m feeling blue about), exhale for a 4-count, hold the breath and then repeat the phrase.
I do this breathing exercise several times until my breath has slowed down, my body is calm and the power of my focus has returned to the attitude of gratitude and faith that I want to have. In essence, I am reminding myself that I am not alone; I have a loving God who is caring for me and providing all I need. And while the situation may not be to my liking, it IS where I am and “here” and now is where I will find God (Check out Psalms 139 – it’s a good one!).
Along with breathing exercises, below are the other practices I crafted and have been using for the past 55 days (and counting) to live with gratitude in the not-so good times:
- Every morning, before making any move to get out of bed, I start the new day by closing my eyes, taking several deep breaths and saying, “In this new morning, I am strong. I have exactly what I need for this day: inner fortitude, physical strength and a spouse who will help me.”
- I deliberately open up my senses to pay attention to what is around me for which I can say thanks: my window in my bathroom that still lets me see breath-taking sunsets, rolling clouds, and beautiful birds nesting in the tree. Sometimes I close my eyes and listen to the howl of the wind, the cry of the hawk or the tinkling of wind chimes. These signs let me know that nature is all around me and comforts me with a sense of not being alone. Nature, too, is undergoing stillness and is in a season of “resting,” Spring will follow – for it and for me.
- Every day I set an intention to make my body stronger by exercising what I can, believing that strengthening parts will strengthen the whole. I am grateful for the immediate relief that upper body workouts give me physically, mentally and emotionally. They have been instant gratitude prompters and have re-taught me the value and benefits of working out, whether you “feel” like it or not. The work is worth the effort. The payoff is always there.
- I choose. I actively focus on positives. I look for good. I look for the gifts found in each day, no matter how small or how grand: colors, the fun mug choice my husband chose to put my tea in, fuzzy socks, the unexpected call from a friend, a meal brought over, a poem someone e-mailed me . . .
These practices have helped me live out gratitude in this particular stretch of “I’m not having fun” days. And I am grateful for the practice that is helping me be “more” than I would have been if I weren’t actively sustaining the practice. I shudder to think of how this journey could be going.
I want to share what is, in my opinion, the FIRST indicator we ever had of the power of gratitude:
“. . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)
If you do, your life will be filled with gratitude and maybe even hope.
What are you grateful for? What helps you sustain a practice of gratitude?
SheReadsTruth blog has a 13-day devotional series on gratitude. Check it out below and start your journey in living a life filled with gratitude!