This week, so many of the conversations I’ve had with my close friends and colleagues have focused on how we’re going to manage to stay positive and motivated in what seems to be a relentless cycle of days, weeks and months rolling into one another without even the glimmer of relief from this daily grind. We’re all feeling the toll of months of lockdown, and know that there’s still a long road ahead.
Whether you’re in the Southern hemisphere having to endure another few months of winter, or the Northern hemisphere where the warm summer weather normally brings with it the promise of fun, holidays, gatherings with loved ones, travel, this “new abnormal” is taking its toll.
For the most part, we’re trying to “look on the bright side” – stay strong, be positive, look for silver lining. As we navigate our way through the endless, relentless bad news and Covid-19, experiencing so many emotions and even questioning humanity, the truth is that it’s impossible to ‘stay positive’ all the time. In a previous post I wrote about not judging your feelings, and now that seems more relevant than ever. In fact, I believe that one of our silver linings will be that we have no choice right now but to lean in to our uncomfortable spaces and start working through them.
But this doesn’t mean we can’t be on the lookout for a flower in the concrete!
Finding joy in the little things to be grateful for.
In the daily grind, how do we fill up our “joy” buckets? It’s really pretty simple: it’s time to start paying attention to the bountiful gifts surrounding us that we so often take for granted.
At the moment, mankind seems to be getting a lot of things wrong, but sometimes we get it so right. There is so much extraordinary creativity out there; paintings and photographs, great design and crafts, the written word, music – whether classical or contemporary. All can transport us to a better emotional space and fill up our daily joy quotient.
And who doesn’t revel in a delicious smell wafting by whether from the oven, cut grass, the rain or a perfume that evokes memories of happy times. When you pay attention and just breathe it in for a few moments this too will fill up your spirit.
They say the best things in life are free. They’re right. I’ve always been in awe of nature and the extraordinary beauty it proudly displays on a daily basis. The patterns, forms, magnificent colours, trees, flowers, grasses, animals, mountains, rivers and oceans, sunrise, sunset; grand design in its purest form. Observing the glory of nature will truly lift your mood.
Read more on the benefits of nature and creating ‘green space’ at home, here.
Over the weekend, a friend dropped off a bunch of exquisite tulips and ranunculas – a striking contrast to my bleak winter garden. As I work, I watch the tulip stems grow and dance and the ranunculas open and I’m filled with joy whenever I look at them.
Develop a daily Gratitude practise
UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center study showed that regularly expressing gratitude for the good thing can literally change the molecular structure of our brains. Broken down (very poorly, my apologies), the more we exercise and build on specific neuropathways the less effort it takes to stimulate them the next time. By practicing gratitude as often as possible we train our brains to look for the good rather than the bad. Gratitude can also be a natural antidepressant, releasing small doses of serotonin and dopamine in our brains.
When we start paying attention to nature and the beauty that is all around us, we can start building our gratitude quotient – and becoming conscious of the small things we’re grateful for, together with being mindful and open to all the things that can bring us joy, the positive impact is exponential.
So get a notebook to leave next to your bed and try ending your day with a list of at least 3 things you’re grateful for – it will increase the production of your happy hormones and maybe even give you a better night’s sleep!
The joyfully grateful roundup
So now imagine how a few moments of joy each day, rounded out with a gratitude list before you go to sleep will make a difference to your mindset. It won’t take away the fear, stress or anxiety, but it will definitely make getting through your days easier. And over time, you’ll form a beautiful mindfulness habit that makes “stopping to smell the roses” an integral part of your day.
My list today:
- I’m grateful for the beautiful vase of tulips on my desk
- I’m grateful for the sunset I’m watching outside as I write.
- I’m already grateful for the dinner I can smell coming up the stairs (Thank you darling daughter!!)