Gratitude on repeat

Some people just seem to get it. They easily recognize the things that don’t serve them and they adjust their energy toward things that do.

I have a theory that this starts at birth. If you have to spend a lot of time crying and screeching for attention from caregivers who mostly only meet your basic physical needs, you grow up seeking that deeper connection everywhere. It’s a built-in-at-birth negative pattern. And it can take a lifetime to change.

I’ve been recognizing it more and more in my life since, oh, let’s see, I spread my wings, flew the family coop and moved out on my own some twenty odd years ago. And most days, I feel no closer to changing that negative pattern than I did on those first few lonely nights in my new apartment.

But then two very tiny things happened recently. The first: my sister told me she was no longer engaging in a seemingly small behaviour that has kept her locked in negative energy. A lightbulb went off in my head shining light on that exact behaviour in me. Now that I recognized it, it was time to let it go.

The second: I came across a new gratitude affirmation meditation one morning (not unusual for me because I’m always searching for different meditation audio tracks that help me with my daily experience) and it started with this:

Our thoughts create our world.

That’s it. That’s the second tiny thing. It seemed inconsequential. I’ve heard this before in a variety of different forms, but it never really landed with me. But this time, it was different. It was like all the writing and reading and meditating about creating a more positive life experience and trying to find a way out of a negative behaviour that had recently been highlighted in me all culminated in those five words: Our thoughts create our world.

I’ve been getting better at creating that positive energy on the cushion and for the first hour or so off the cushion each morning, but then life takes over and I forget or get bogged down and don’t do the work of raising my positive energy levels. I now know that it’s not that I forget or get too busy to do the action of the intentions I’ve set. It’s because my brain has spent most of its existence bathed in negative energy.

Anxiety is my brain’s default setting. So I’m not forgetting to practice my positive intentions, I’m just not wired for it. The deep grooves that have been carved into my brain since childhood are the trails where anxiety runs. I have to pave over them with positive thoughts and create new paths. My thoughts create my world.

But how to change the thoughts? I’m always looking for that one thing that I can do to be better and to raise little humans who start from a better place, but I’ve always taken on too much, tried too many different things at once to get better, and I’ve never settled on any one thing that works. (There a lot of things I do in combination, but what’s the anchor? What’s the one thing that glues it all together? It’s easier for a brain that’s trying to change to have one thing to focus on. If you’ve never exercised before, you don’t start the most complicated exercise regimen available. You start by putting on your running shoes and going for a walk. Same with re-wiring the brain.)

Human brains are conditioned to function in a repeated way. So, if you worry too much about bad outcomes, you are subconsciously re-wiring your brain to process negative information only. But, the brain cannot focus on positive and negative information at the same time. So, if you practice gratitude constantly, about every little thing (and there’s a lot to be grateful for, so you won’t run out of things), you will re-wire your brain to process positive information and thus raise your positive energy level.

That’s what I discovered from those two tiny things:

  1. I have a negative behaviour pattern that needs to be changed.
  2. My thoughts create my world, so my thoughts need to be positive.

What one thing can I get my brain to do that simultaneously raises positive energy and prevents me from thinking negatively? Gratitude.

But what if everything is going wrong in life and there is nothing to be grateful for? It sometimes feels like that. But I know now that it’s only because my brain is wired to look for the negative and that wiring is dug in deep. It will take major excavating to dig it out and rewire, but it starts with gratitude.

Gratitude for tiny things: I am thankful I opened my eyes this morning (this is harder to be grateful for on really bad days). I am thankful for my pillow. I am thankful for the fan on hot summer nights. I am thankful I can walk. I am thankful for the breath that fills my lungs at this moment. I am thankful for flyers in my mailbox because it gives me something to browse while I eat lunch. I am thankful for my mostly unicolour wardrobe because I don’t have to think about what to match stuff with.

You get the idea. Gratitude on repeat. Aloud or silently. Re-wiring in progress.

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