This is the second part of a message I delivered to my circle at church last week. I hope it is helpful to you and blesses you in some way!
In order to express gratitude, we must see what Deborah Norville, in her book Thank You Power, calls “the magic in each moment”. A big part of our stress problem is that, as a society, we don’t slow down enough to see the blessings that each day holds. There’s even a name for this!
This guy, Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D., a psychologist and founder of the Roosevelt University Stress Institute, in Chicago, calls it “hurry sickness”. Dr. Smith has studied more than 10,000 people in his research on stress over the past thirty years, and says our culture has promoted in us a sense of guilt when we have free time. “We’re psychologically addicted to the idea that success equals busyness,” he said, to Ladies Home Journal (yes, I do consider this a scientific journal, thank you). “And most people today live with high levels of stress hormones in their bodies, so when they relax, they feel anxious.”
Smith says that women are especially predisposed to this anxiety. “They’re under much more pressure to do everything well — be a good wife, mother and employee.” He said in the interview.
So one way to handle our stress is slow down, look around, and find the “magic in each moment”. Adopting an attitude of gratitude.
The first step in living a grateful life is to become less distracted by the world and focus on our blessings. I found this great article by a lady named Jennifer Nelson called 6 Ways to Find a Quiet Place for Yourself in my Better Homes and Gardens magazine (another scientific journal that I frequent). In the article she gives some ideas to help us find “everyday moments of silence”. For me, this translates to everyday moments for prayer. And for our purposes today, we will say everyday opportunities to meditate on our blessings.
Have a morning quiet time—it only takes 12 minutes
Nelson says that silence is important in the morning because cortisol levels are highest then. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is known to cause increased blood pressure, heart disease, impaired mental performance, and even increased abdominal fat! Nelson talked with Janet Luhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide, who says: “It takes only 12 minutes in the morning to lower your cortisol,” Spend the first 12 minutes of the day sitting quietly, communing with God. This is a great time to practice being grateful. The psalmist had it right. Early morning quiet time is not only beneficial to the soul; it has physical benefits as well!
Nelson recommends spending at least 30 minutes in quiet as you go about your daily chores. Performing these simple rote actions will allow your mind to be open to “your intuition, that quiet part that can’t be heard over noise”. The quiet allows us to hear God more acutely, escaping the distractions of everyday noise that often edge out His voice.
Walk in the Woods or Try Gardening
Communing with nature is an amazing way to calm your spirit. All around you are the evidences of God’s handiwork. Spend some time praising Him for all the lovely things that come into your view as you quietly contemplate your surroundings. Often when I am running, I practice “gratitude running”. I tune my eyes to the things around me and have a running dialogue with God about how amazing he is.
On your way to work or as you drive around running errands, turn off the music and “silently reflect on the day’s events to renew a tired spirit and restore peace”. Use this time to talk to God and express your gratitude for your blessings.
“Switch off Bells and Whistles”
Nelson says: “Cell phones, instant messaging, and e-mails are filled with sound and stimulation. Each technology comes with an accompanying noise, most of which we don’t even notice any more. Try silencing all your tech gadgets from time to time and spend a few hours enjoying the difference that accompanies a quieter life”. Again, this allows us to hear God’s voice and experience the peace that comes with communing with Him.
Another thing that I frequently tell my patients to do is start a gratitude journal. It works for Oprah! By attending to the blessings that God bestows on us each day, our lives will be transformed in ways we can never imagine. If a journal seems too intimidating a task, then, each night, before drifting off to sleep, try to think of three things that happened during the course of the day that you are grateful for. By making these practices a regular habit, you will train your mind to be tuned in to the “magic of the moment”. It may take some time to establish this as a part of your outlook, but the results are well worth it!
Blessed, not stressed.