Maybe you are overwhelmed. Maybe you are frustrated. Maybe you are behind on your to-do list and you feel like you are being buried so fast you will never be able to dig your way out from underneath it all. Maybe you've made a mistake or have been criticized and are feeling incompetent. Maybe you are trying to function on a number of sleepless nights stacked up into wobbly Jenga-like tower...and you are ready to crash. Maybe you are just plain exhausted. Maybe your exhaustion has caused you to lash out at or neglect someone you love. Maybe you've turned to an unhealthy habit to numb an unpleasant feeling or situation. Maybe you failed to meet a goal or objective and you just can't find the energy to get back up and try again. Maybe you just want to give up. Maybe you are beating yourself up for any or all of the above. Maybe defeat seems like the only option you have enough energy for.
Maybe it all seems insurmountable...
But what if it isn't?
What if there was one thing you could do that would get you back to feeling confident, competent, and totally capable of taking the actions necessary to overcome any of the above negativity?
I'm hear to tell you there is. There is something that has proven itself time and time again to me as THE lifesaver. THE thing that continues to enable me to overcome negative emotions and negative self-talk created by any failure, stress, regret, rejection, and criticism in my own life.
I've experienced all of the above negative situations. I've experienced a lot of negative emotions, and in the past I could have won an award for being so incredibly well practiced in negative self-talk. I did not take well to making mistakes, or being criticized. If I messed something up, I could not handle the negative feedback or the possibility that I would be perceived as anything less than perfect. It gave me anxiety...which prevented me from sleeping...which all stacked up until I was ready to crash.
I've also failed a lot. Or rather I defined a lot of the results of my actions as failures. Failure to meet the unrealistic expectations I set for myself. This would happen a lot at work. Failed to do enough. Failed to impress enough. Failed to be thorough enough with my research. Failed to see that issue. And it also would happen in my personal life. Failed to spend enough time with family. Failed to call that friend on her birthday. Failed to eat healthy enough or get enough sleep and exercise. Failed. Failed. Failed.
One concrete example of a particularly difficult struggle with negative thoughts that I have experienced is my struggle to overcome bulimia. And even in recovery there are things that I continue to struggle with, such as failure to completely eliminate eating for emotional reasons, failure to accept fully myself and body, and negative self-talk and judgment of myself for failing to do those things, or essentially failing to have a "perfect recovery".
These self-defined "failures" can lead to negative thoughts and emotions that are extremely powerful. And these emotions can lead to a lack of motivation and a pull towards accepting defeat. But there is one thing that always prevents me from throwing in the towel.
And that one thing is GRATITUDE.
Practicing gratitude has proven to be more powerful than every negative emotion I've ever felt. Its pulled me from my darkest times, and enabled me to continue believing in, pursuing, and living a life that I LOVE.
Every night before I go to sleep I write down five gratitudes. Five things that I am grateful for that day. It could be something seemingly insignificant such as laughter in a conversation, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders as I walk home from work, finding I have just enough coffee grinds left for my morning cup of coffee, the feeling of rain on my face as I run along the seawall, or seeing someone who is sullenly occupying two bus seats get up and offer them to an elderly couple.
Or it could be more big picture, such as gratitude for the people in my life that inspire and support me; for the ability to walk, run, see, and experience the beautiful city that I live in; for the technology that enables me to communicate with family, friends, and all of you all over the world; for the courage I have had to overcome the challenges life has presented me thus far; for the beauty in my imperfections; and for endless opportunity, including the opportunity to learn from my failures, the opportunity to love myself anyways, and the opportunity to get back up and try again tomorrow.
It may seem like the last thing you want to do when you are feeling down, but there is nothing more powerful or more successful at changing negative emotions and thoughts than thinking hard about what you are grateful for and writing it down. Something about the practice trivializes whatever negativity was consuming you, brings a warmth to your heart, and gives you the courage to try again.
So I invite you to incorporate more gratitude into your life. Take a small step and think of one thing per day.
Truly feel grateful. Write it down. Share it with others. LIVE it. And watch how it transforms your state of mind...and slowly, your life.