“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
When I was little, I used to spend hours outside; exploring the creeks, trees, and plants throughout my neighborhood. I would carry a magnifying glass in my pocket on my outdoor adventures, pulling it out to examine the little treasures I found. Up close, I could see specks of algae growing on rocks in the creek bed or a sheen of color on the wing of a bug that I had caught. The tiny details would jump out at me, captivating my gaze and increasing my wonder.
Our thoughts act like a magnifying glass for the circumstances we find ourselves in and the beliefs that we hold. When we allow our minds to wander, it’s like we’re roaming our mental terrain with a magnifying glass, stopping to study the things that catch our attention. When we remember a painful conversation with a friend, we stare through the magnifying glass, ruminating on every word that was spoken. We recall a deadline at work, using the magnifying glass to obsess over the project details, anxious thoughts racing through the brain like traffic on a freeway until we’re overcome by the enormity of the issue at hand.
A magnifying glass, though, doesn’t actually make things bigger: it just makes things look bigger. Often times we need freedom from our fears about a particular circumstance more than we need freedom from the actual circumstance. Our anxious thought patterns keep us paralyzed from dealing with the issue at hand.
But don’t despair: there’s good news! We can make positive circumstances seem just as big as negative ones. Practicing gratitude is a conscious effort to hover the magnifying glass of our thoughts over the good things that we enjoy, intentionally shifting our focus from fear to fullness. It takes some practice, but if you exercise thankfulness like you would a muscle, you’ll find that it gets easier over time.
Here are a few practical tips for you to start using your “magnifying glass” the right way:
1. Journal (or keep a note on your phone)
Get into the habit of writing down things that fill you with gratitude at least once a day, whether that’s in a physical journal or in a note on your phone.
2. Give Kudos
At the end of the day, think about people you interacted with who deserve some “kudos.” Did someone lend you a hand on a project at work? Did someone make you laugh? Send a quick text to the people who come to mind, letting them know how they impacted you. Your happiness will be doubled!
3. Use Your Drive Time Well
If you’re like most Americans, you spend a lot of time in your car. Take a few minutes on your drive to practice gratitude for where you’ve been and where you’re going – literally! Did you just have coffee with a friend? Give thanks for that person. Are you headed to a tough meeting? Give thanks for the opportunity for personal growth.
4. Pause Before You Eat
Mealtimes are a great opportunity to give thanks (even if you’re not religious!). During a meal, you’re most likely taking a break from your day, enjoying something delicious, and maybe even sharing it with people you love. It’s a no-brainer.
5. Do Something
Gratitude doesn’t have to stop with words; let it result in action. The people you love deserve your best. A handwritten note, a surprise cup of coffee, or an extra turn at doing the dishes will speak even louder than saying “thank you.”
We encourage you to give gratitude a try, and then let us know how it works! Message us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to start a conversation if you have any thoughts or practical suggestions of your own. And by the way, we are thankful for you! Our Alleviant Health Centers community is a constant source of gratitude, and we don’t take you for granted.