Overwhelm and anxiety are both real. And given that we’re a week ahead of the election and still in a pandemic, we’re all likely feeling a bit (or more) off kilter. And when that happens we can spin into negativity or shut down.
But what if there’s something that can help you feel more grounded, less anxious, something to help you sleep and make you more optimistic? No, it’s not a pill—it’s gratitude.
If you’re thinking “Riiight, like gratitude’s going to help,” stick with me for just a minute.
Gratitude let’s you find the good — even when things are the worst.
Feeling that there’s some goodness in your life is important and life changing. Gratitude doesn’t mean overlooking pain, struggle and hardship. It means finding the good, even when they are present. You can be angry, grieving, sad, or despairing … and still feel gratitude. Gratitude reminds you to appreciate positive traits in yourself, others and the world, and at the same time your humble dependence on others.
Consistently practicing gratitude through great times and hard times helps you feel calmer, happier and less stressed. Doing so helps you build capacity to deal with disappointments, conflicts and stress.
Filling Up Your Cup of Capacity Helps With Stress
What is capacity and why does it matter? Capacity is the ability to deal with stress without spinning out of control or going into fight or flight mode. (And when you can do that, you avoid cortisol and other physical reactions that are bad for your heart, brain and psyche.) Capacity helps you be more measured in your reactions to absorb the slings and arrows of daily life.
Think about a time you were driving along the highway and someone cut you off. The event was a bit scary, but likely you weren’t in danger. Depending on how you’re feeling you might shrug it off or go into rage. You might think “he didn’t see me” or “what a jerk (or stronger)”. The stronger reaction likely will create a biochemical response (cortisol pumping through your body, racing heart, tensing muscles). And having your body and brain be stressed in that way is not healthy.
If you’re low on capacity and feeling stressed you’re more likely to react in a way that’s not good for you. But if you have more CAPACITY to handle stress, you’re likely to brush off the bad driving (or the twitter feed you don’t agree with) and stay calm.
Right now tensions are high, it’s important to fill your cup of capacity, and positivity practices like gratitude (and kindness, mindfulness, self care and creativity) do just that.
I invite you to pause and take in the good, express gratitude for those who care for and help you or make you smile. See the beauty in nature or the sweetness in the smile of a baby. Feel your dog’s excitement to see you or revel in the laughter of an old friend. Notice it, savor it, breathe.