Welcome to the Monday Mindwash. We’re here to give our minds a little scrub, get some of the dirt out. These weekly episodes will challenge your mind, body, and especially those beliefs you store within. Well, you don’t actually think they’re your beliefs, do you?
We really have some serious issues to discuss. By the way, what’s with all this crime? Opioid addiction? School shootings? Stock market jitters? Healthcare costs? Stagnant wages? How do we do it? How do we make it through our day? It’s terrible, frustrating, demoralizing, and downright depressing, right? It’s enough to make you want to shout out “Why me?”
And if you can ignore all that higher level mess, then imagine how crazy things are on a daily basis with work and kids and traffic and school. Overstressed, overworked, and underpaid, there just isn’t time for everything. And let’s not forget taxes…yuck. Why can’t life be easier?
The Dirt: Life sucks / It’s just one problem after another
Helen Keller — “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”
Let’s take a different perspective. A person in a less fortunate situation may have the following comments:
Crime → You mean there’s something worth stealing?
Opioid crisis → What’s an opioid?
School Shootings → If I had a gun, I’d sell it to buy school books so I can attend school.
Stock Market jitters → You can turn your money into more money? But what happens when the government takes it all?
Healthcare costs→ No worries here. My health costs are the same as my health. Low and declining.
Stagnant wages→ Yes, my wages have not gone down much. And I thank God every day.
Traffic gridlock → You don’t ride a bike?
How was your day today? Did you eat anything? Were you indoors most of the day? Were you at all in serious danger of being injured or killed? Great, you’re probably in a first world country. As you bemoan all the “bad” in your life, consider that 80% of the world lives on less than $10/day. The U.S. poverty line is over three times that amount.
I’m not here to save the world (in this article.) I’m not here to tell you to eat your food or kids in Africa will starve. I’m telling you they are starving regardless of whether or not you choke down the entire Chicken McNugget meal. What’s more, many would give a limb for the opportunity to die later in life from the malnutrition of eating crappy food. The difference is that we take it for granted.
How does it feel to be given the Rolls Royce of life opportunity and the best you’ve managed is to do is either complain about the Italian leather stitching, or doze off at the wheel, letting go of that Taco Bell you ate for lunch.
Can we just admit that we are spoiled rotten? That when a friend complains their car was scratched, we have the audacity to ask, “Oh my, which car?” Again, not a judgement for or against this country, just a wake up call to realize that the quality of life for the worst of us is still in the top 5% of the world. Don’t feel bad, feel blessed that not only are things good, we can use the good to create great.
It’s not hocus pocus, just a matter of focus
What if everything in which you focus becomes like a power magnet that attracts the like? Imagine your thoughts, words, and actions as energizing that magnet. The more energy it has, the quicker and greater the attraction of those things that support (or harmonize with) those same thoughts, words, and actions. It’s the boomerang effect of your life.
This is great if you are constantly talking about health, wealth, success and all the greatness that surrounds you. But let’s get “real”. Our focus is often on our first world problems, if you can call them that. Certainly, there are real troubles even in our relatively comfortable society. Drugs, crime, shootings, racism, and many other things are detrimental to our quality of life. I would never suggest they don’t exist or that we ignore them, just that it’s awfully cruel to yourself that the more you focus on what’s wrong, the more wrong there is to focus on, don’t you think?
Instead, deal with the problems then disconnect from them. While not an overnight fix, do what you can for now, then let it go from your mind until you must deal with it again. Think of each problem like a 30-pound stone ball. If you had to hold it for a minute a day, that might be bearable. If you had to hold it for an hour, that would be stressful and cause soreness. If you tried to hold it for 12 hours per day, you may suffer permanent damage over time. Do you really believe our worries, complaints, and problems are any different than the ball?
What if instead of focusing on first-world problems, we focused on first-world appreciation and doing so attracted first-world benefits?
Attitude of Gratitude
The power of appreciation and gratitude cannot be overstated. As long as we’re attracting things into our life, why not attract the good things? This concepts related directly to attitude. Our attitide is how we feel about ourselves and our life on a daily basis. Here is the cycle.
When we feel good, we do good.
When we do good, we achieve good.
When we achieve good, we feel good.
When we feel good, we do good.
Having an attitude of gratitude is one of the best ways to start this cycle moving in the right direction. After all, it’s hard to feel good when what you feel is crap falling from the sky onto your head every day. Imagine taking a step back, realizing that it’s not actually crap, but little chocolate candies, each with a surprise middle of cream, jelly, mint, or any of your favorite flavors. It sounds silly, but just this small shift in attitude could be enough to give you a positive appreciation for what you have, leading to positive expectations of what’s to come.
If all you knew was that gratitude makes you happier, would that not be enough? What if it also strengthened your relationships with others? People want to be appreciated, just like you. Plus, being happy is far more attractive than being an asshole. Consider this in terms of your workplace or business. Imagine how this would attract and keep more clients.
What if it could improve your health, both physical and mental? Negative emotions lead to a toxic mental environment. This in turn can lead to the physical expression of a bad mental state. Psychosomaticism is the study of this well-known effect. Depression leading to suicide is another example. I would challenge anyone to be truly grateful and depressed at the same time.
Lastly, consider how gratitude can reduce aggression and increase empathy. Empathy is an emotion that puts you in the other person’s shoes. It’s the basis for the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Put that in terms of the violence, shootings, and racism and you can see we how ungrateful our society is at the moment.
Shouldn’t the fact that we have the luxury to debate crime, lose money, and sit in traffic be great reasons to be happy, not angry?
Isn’t that we have school shootings at all a sign of lack of gratitude on all levels? From a lack of empathy to an increase in aggression stemming from a form of depression in which a student feels the way to achieve their objective is to kill others en masse, we see the effects of an ungrateful populace. It extends from the root cause right through the lasting results, closing the unfortunate loop back to a root cause. And thus we continue.
Ways to increase your gratitude
Pay attention to what you have, not what you don’t have. The moment you feel down about not having something, start to consider something you do have and how grateful you are for it.
Focus on the obvious things. It doesn’t take a huge house, big business, or even a nice car to have gratitude. How about waking up? A sunny day? The smile of your spouse or kids?
Slow down! In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we don’t even give ourselves a chance to be thankful. Take a second to stop (yes, you can afford it), look around, and take that much needed deep breath as you feel grateful.
Be a blessing unto others. Give the gift of pleasantry, hope, or inspiration to someone else. Even something as small as a genuine compliment can foster feelings of appreciation in them and gratitude in you.
Change your vocabulary. Get rid of phrases that suck the life out of you like, “That’s just my luck” and “Why me?” and replace them with phrases such as “The good news is….” and “Thank goodness that….” The former will focus your attention on the bad, while the latter will focus your energy on the good.
Write down 5 things. Every day, sit down and first think in the morning and write down five things for which you are grateful. Big or small, now or in the past, write them down.
By the way, isn’t our quality of life just a reflection of the quality of our emotions each day? If we experience excitement, joy, hope, gratitude, and appreciation all day long, wouldn’t that be a very nice life? Conversely, a life full of anger, despair, depression, and fear would detract from any quality of life that remained. Why would you ever wish such a life on yourself or your family? Regardless of whether or not you believe all this stuff I’m sharing, why be miserable? Might as well keep you head high.
The good news is that your life is really not that bad in the bigger picture. If you live in the U.S. or have shoes on your feet, you’re in a good place. When things seems to get tough, stressful, or depressing, stop and remember that small point. Then take that positive attitude and leverage it to achieve positive results.
I challenge you to share this with four friends or family that could use some appreciation for how good they have it. I appreciate (and of course am grateful) for each and every one of you. Meet you at the top, because the bottom’s way too crowded.