Life can be overwhelming. No matter what stage of life you are in, there are days that feel heavy, when the air is a bit stifling, and you feel like you are floundering. Maybe you are surrounded by books and papers as you study for an upcoming exam. Maybe you are putting in crazy hours trying to impress your boss in hopes of a promotion. Maybe you are a new mother trying to get your baby to sleep so you can rest a bit yourself. Or maybe, like me, you are in the midst of a huge transition with countless details to figure out when nothing is really coming together yet. Whatever the situation is I bet you are tired. I’m tired too.
In these moments it’s so easy to focus on the hard things and let them steal your peace and joy. But life is always going to be full of challenges, sleepless nights, pressure from work, deadlines, etc. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to always think “One day, once this has passed, then I’ll feel happy again”.
Over the years I have created a habit for myself that seems to be working so far. I’m not going to say I have found the secret to happiness, but just maybe I’m on to something big. The habit I have created is one of gratitude. It started a few years back when I was going through an emotionally difficult time. Whenever I sat down to journal out my thoughts I would clam up with frustration and anger. It was easier to sit in my sadness and slowly start to feel like I was drowning. But one day I felt a prompt to notice the things I was thankful for and actually write them out to God in a spirit of gratitude. It looked something like this…
Thank you for the coffee in front of me, even though it’s not really good. Thank you for my journal that has unlined pages and for a pen that actually writes really smoothly. Thank you for the window next to me and the little breeze that is coming through the opening. Thank you for the ability to write and time to do it. Thank you for music that brings me peace. Thank you that I am able to feel, even when it hurts. Thank you that I know joy because I’ve known pain. Thank you that pain doesn’t define me. Thank you that I have been given a spirit of peace and joy. Thank you that I can tap into that peace and joy at any time. Thank you that I was made for a purpose and that I am able to share my peace and joy with those around me. Thank you for life and for friends and family to share it with. Thank you for this day. Thank you.
Within minutes I went from sulking and angry to feeling a complete sense of calm surround me. My situation had not changed. I was still going through a hard time, but my attitude had shifted. I was focusing on the positive and not just the negative. Taking a moment to express my thanks reminded me that not everything was bad. It brought me back to a place of contentment, a place that then allowed me to process my feelings in a healthier and hope-filled way.
I have been doing this for years now. Sometimes when I’m feeling sad, overwhelmed, or frustrated. Sometimes just because it grounds me and reminds me that God is good and life is good. And then there are times when I forget my own advice and I catch myself wallowing in discontentment and disappointment. But the minute I’m able to stop and be thankful, everything shifts – not the situation, but my attitude! There are so many things in life that we cannot control, but we can choose our own perspective!
I know it sounds simple, but I honestly think a spirit of gratitude can realign our spirits. I don’t know your situation or how hard it is right now. Truthfully, maybe you don’t even have a second to spare to write down things you are thankful for, but I bet you have a minute to think… as you brush your teeth, as you wait for the water to boil, as you ride the elevator to your office floor, as you sit at a red light, as you walk to the bus, train, or your car… you get my point. There is time to be thankful if we make time. If you are stuck, start with the small things that are right in front of you. Perhaps your thanks can start with your most comfortable pair of boots, weathered and worn, but so special or maybe it is your new shade of lipstick or the fact that you are having a great hair day. I guarantee you there is something to be thankful for, even if it is just the fact that there is oxygen to breathe and water to drink. That is a start. See what unfolds as you let intentional thankfulness take over.
In the midst of my unknowns… like where I’m going to live in two weeks when I hop on a plane and move to a new country… I’m going to choose to be thankful for the here and now and cast my worries aside.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
Thank you God, for Ólafur Arnalds and his music that soothes my soul. Thank you for my super soft leggings that I bought last minute before flying back to Spain. Thank you for leftovers in the fridge and the fact that I don’t have to cook tonight. Thank you for life’s unknowns. Thank you for adventures and for being a God that is not only good, but faithful. Thank you that I am known even when I know nothing. Thank you that I am loved!