I have a habit of recounting all the “have nots” and “should haves” and “if onlys.” These leave me in a place of trapped emotion and regret. Instead, I seek to cultivate gratitude.
Let’s take an example from writing. As I reflected upon the day I started to tell myself a story – “I did not finished the revisions to this manuscript” and “I should have all of the revisions done by now” and “if only I would have been writing instead of resting I could have been further along, and on to the next writing project.”
These kinds of thought patterns are destructive and completely unhelpful in advancing my goals. (Also notice the “not” and “should” and “would” language!)
A thought pattern is like a groove in a road of an over traveled highway, so deep the rivets become valleys, collecting pools of water when it rains. These patterns can be retrained. Remade to establish new ones that collect joy instead of fear.
With gratitude I notice the opportunities and choices that I made today. I chose to listen more than seek to be heard. “I am grateful to have colleagues to interact with.” I chose to rest my aching tired body instead of push myself to the extreme. “I am grateful for having a warm bed and quiet space to rest.”
My writing projects are plentiful. I am working on one at a time. “I am grateful to have constructive comments from reviewers to push the work forward and improve my communication of ideas. I am glad to have the encouragement to revise and resubmit this work.” (Notice in the gratitude statements the “glad” and “have” language!)
With dedication to this practice, change is possible. I noticed destructive thought patterns. I let them be. I made a choice to be grateful. To feel full instead of empty.
With time, repetition, and clear intentions, gratitude first will be the new rivet in the road. Collecting joy, restoring thought patterns toward productive ones, leaving the destructive ones behind.