Covid is morphing from a pandemic to an endemic. That means this slog is going to continue in some version for a long time. My stamina is flagging and my mood getting darker.
Running on Fumes
Don’t lose sight of all the good things in your world.
It’s natural to get discouraged when the challenges pile up and it looks like there is no break on the horizon.
When my mood takes a dive, I have found bringing my attention to gratitude helps me feel better.
This is the time of year when we’re encouraged to pause, take stock, and be thankful for the good things in our lives.
Feeling grateful lifts our spirits. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude releases the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.
Plus, it has another positive and practical side. I’m a firm believer that what we give energy to gets bigger or, at the very least, feels bigger. If we focus our thoughts and energy on the positives, we will experience more of that.
Being grateful is also a way of reminding us of what we value and might be taking for granted. Think of aspects of our lives that what were once a source of joy or even luxuries and now seem like necessities or entitlements. Their luster has faded, and our appreciation along with it.
The good news is that we have the capacity to shift our attitude. We can leave any traces of being a victim in the rearview mirror. Indeed, consider that life is happening for you, not to you.
A practical application is to shift our thinking to:
I get to do X rather than I have to do X. There is a perspective of appreciation, curiosity and wonder. (Think Ted Lasso.) It also helps to be other-focused with an outward mindset.
Making a gratitude list is an action that can boost the impact. I have a client who is part of daily email chain where a small group shares their personal list each day.
I share this in the spirit of experimenting, practicing and exploring. I am hardly perfect about any of this. When I do make the effort, however, I feel better and my days go better.
I realize this can seem like Pollyanna. With all of this emphasis on appreciation and being upbeat, it’s important to watch for slipping into the false reassurance of “toxic positivity.”
Toxic positivity is offering an unrealistically rosy view of bad circumstances. The response of optimism is inappropriate; in effect, it’s a way of denying reality.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on this subject, it was noted that “practicing false cheerfulness keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others.”
Toxic positivity can have the impact of leaving someone feeling invalidated or dismissed.
I believe that at our core, people have a need to feel seen and heard.
Expressing gratitude is an acknowledgment of what we value and want more of and is usually part of relationships. Showing appreciation strengthens our bonds. I know I feel more inclined to help again someone who expresses genuine appreciation when I’ve done something that matters to them.
When we thank someone, the tendency is to acknowledge how their help has made us feel.
But, to have the desired impact of celebrating our benefactor and to thank them as best we can, our expression of gratitude should focus on them the giver and what they did and not on what I the recipient got.
Another benefit of gratitude is that it lifts one’s spirits and with it hope and optimism. That in turn can strengthen one’s resolve, stamina and consideration of longer-term perspectives.
What we send out, we get back — sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.