In 2014 I took a class at a local wellness center, one that focused on giving participants ideas for renewing our lives and immersing ourselves in healing. This program is designed to address the connection between the body, mind and spirit while focusing on topics like “Restoring Spirit”, “Expressing Feelings”, and “Making Meaning.” To be honest, I’m not sure how many (if any) of the strategies made their way into my psyche. What I do remember is that I found a group of people I could be vulnerable with, people I turned to for support each week.
Three years later, I find myself taking that class again. While the materials and the awesome facilitators are the same, there are things that are different. I didn’t know any of the ten participants before walking into class back in March. I’m coming into this with a whole new set of life experiences. And I’m certainly devoted to engaging with the weekly homework. This homework is what I want to share with you. It’s the strategies for turning our negatives into positives that are so important. There will always be obstacles. What matters is how we respond to them.
In the midst of my cervical dystonia symptoms, I’ve tried thinking about what I’m grateful for every day. However, I’ve never actually kept a gratitude journal before. Now, every night before I go to bed, I kick back in my favorite chair and write down five items for which I’m grateful. Perhaps, they are events that happened, or perhaps someone did something nice. Maybe I stood up for myself, or maybe I did something nice. Last night, when I sat down to record the things I’m thankful for, this is what I wrote:
- the closing for my refinancing!!!
- finding vegan cheddar cheese puffs on sale
- looking for furniture online
- Speckles and Morey jumping in the car and refusing to get out until I drove them somewhere
- giving my neighbors a couple croissants I bought today
After doing this for the past three weeks, I’m finding I actually look forward to this activity every night. Rather than sorting through all the challenges of the day, I’m immediately able to grab onto the positives. You know how we typically recall the bad over the good? This is one way to turn that around. When you become immersed in the positives rather than the negatives, your outlook on life changes for the better. Another method is called reframing.
Reframing means changing your perspective on a negative experience. What have you learned? What positive factors can you identify? This doesn’t mean youre denying problems exist. Let me say that again. This doesn’t mean you’re denying problems exist. You’re just learning to identify the positives too, which will help you develop a greater sense of well-being. For example,
My Belief: I’m very sad that Bob doesn’t want to be friends anymore.
Reframing: I was courageous and acted with integrity when I reached out to apologize to Bob.
What’s an example of a negative experience you’ve had today? Write your original belief, and then reframe it to identify a positive attribute. Try doing this once a day until it becomes a natural part of your thought process. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Find joy in smelling all the roses, one at a time. You’ll be glad you did.
My Hopes: I’m curious what tools you use to make meaning of stressful situations. How do you encourage personal growth rather than remaining overwhelmed? How do you see the positive in the midst of so many obstacles? It’s not easy, but it’s something we can all do. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. All you have to do is do it!