Living Better

<em>My Grateful List</em>

My Grateful List

Marcus Aurelius is said to have penned the following…

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—To breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

I prominently affixed this quote to a bathroom mirror at the place I moved to after launching myself into a new life a few years back.

It was a difficult time. My life had turned upside down, and I needed a constant reminder to focus on things I was grateful for, even if it meant that all I had to be thankful for was the air I breathed.

Now, as I write this, it sounds a little corny in a way, for I would wake up and read that quote, look myself in the mirror, and tell myself, “I love you, Christian.”

Then I would come up with 10 things that morning I was grateful for.

The fog was thick in my soul then and the only direction I had at the time was to let the dust settle from major life events and fully embrace the changes taking place.

Practicing Gratefulness helped me through some of those dark days.

Today, I have that quote affixed to my computer’s desktop so that I see it every time I open the lid. It serves as a great reminder to practice gratefulness every day even if things aren’t going how I want, or expect them to.

I figured I’d share that quote with you today in case you’re looking for a source of inspiration to help you through some difficult times.

I also want to share my grateful list. A list of 10 things I’m grateful for as part of my daily practice to stay focused on that which is upbeat, positive, and help rewire my brain and emotions to see the good in life instead of always seeing the negative that invariably drags me into despair.

***

My list this morning…

  1. Venus. Huh? Yes, the second planet from our sun. As I write this, it’s cloudy but Venus is the brightest star in the heavens right now, and it’s the only thing that is piercing the cloud cover. It’s beautiful. It’s the perfect picture of hope—a shimmering point of light in a vast sea of darkness.
  2. The Moon. It’s full this early morning hour. It has a beauty all to its own as it reflects the sun through the clouds to an area beyond the window I’m sitting.
  3. Woke at 3:30 a.m. without an alarm. I know you wouldn’t think that’s something to be grateful for but to have my internal clock to get me up each day about this time so I can write and publish these articles over the past few weeks is pretty great. It means I don’t need to hear the alarm (I don’t like waking to alarms) and that I’m not rushed for time getting ready for my part-time gig later on.
  4. Just yawned and stretched. Felt good to get some blood moving through the joints.
  5. My breathing is not labored. I grew up with lung issues; asthma, bouts of pneumonia more times I care to relate, and this morning? <deep breath> I can breathe!
  6. #5 reminds me of my overall health. Never take your health for granted. Cherish it. Protect it. Nourish it.
  7. Running. In a few hours, my girlfriend and I are going to run the Turkey Trot; a local road race of 1 to 4 miles. Pick the distance. Proceeds go to the local run club and from there to several charities. It’s a good cause, it’s fun, it’s in support of #6 above.
  8. Early morning blueberry snack I just woofed down. Delish!
  9. Soft socks and soft flannel jammies. Sounds a bit foofoo-ish for a guy but I recall many times when life isn’t soft. I appreciate a few niceties in life.
  10. My girlfriend. I appreciate being intimately connected to another human being.

Some of the items above are big and weighty, some not so much, and some might be a bit silly for some out there reading this.

That’s okay.

Some days the list is filled with some pretty simple things that I walk over or under that are easy to take for granted.

I don’t want to take one moment for granted.

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Change, Life Hack, Living Better, Self, Self-Improvement
<em>Here’s a Simple Tool to Help Fight Off Depression During the Holidays</em>

Here’s a Simple Tool to Help Fight Off Depression During the Holidays

There was a time when I walked around depressed and angry—an internal default setting that never seemed to move. Very few times do I remember being at peace or truly laughing because of joy or happiness.

Small things would send me over the edge.

My mind would cloud, darken like a moonless night, and the anger would be a quick, harsh scourge.

The after effects of such would pummel me deeper into despair because I would deal with remorse and regret over my stupid actions over such scourge.

This would almost always lead me, and way too quickly I might add, to thoughts of suicide.

And ever since I can remember, I’ve also been able to maintain an outward appearance that everything is great. All is well. I got my life together.

Yet, all the time inwardly, this internal swirling mass of dark ick tainted everything in my life.

***

Life is a tough business, and it’s almost unbearable for some.

And(!) during the holidays, this becomes more acute: the internal pain, confusion, depression, and anger of such.

Couple that with the media blitz that everyone should be happy and smiling and cheerful during the holidays, when in fact a person in real life may be dealing with a divorce, separation, recent death of someone close, financial problems, or a big career change (either intentional or forced), just compounds the already dark ick swirling around inside.

That comparison of how we should be versus how we really feel during the holidays is too much pressure.

The paradox in all of this is that as a law enforcement officer—career I retired from—I dealt with many situations during the holidays that involved suicides, homicides, and those who wanted to commit suicide.

I can’t even explain the bewilderment in my own head when I wanted to help these people all the while I had no answers for myself!

For some reason, Thanksgiving seemed to be the worst time of year; more so than Christmas.

Toward the end of my career, I began to search for ways to get better myself because the days and nights were becoming darker and gloomier and there was nothing that brought joy to my life outside of a few spots of relief from time to time.

***

As I’ve mentioned before, It’s never just one thing.

As I searched, one path led to another path that led to one item that I still do to this day…

Practicing Gratefulness.

It’s like a superpower!

Notice I did not say, Being Grateful, but Practicing.

There’s a difference…you can’t become unless you begin and practice being the thing you want to become.

Much of this depends not only on the choices we make but the habits we develop in our lives.

Habits are strong ropes that bind us to our core beliefs and transform us, either good or bad, to the thing we give ourselves to.

Gratefulness is no different.

***

The University of California, Berkley, has made a long study, and science, out of Gratefulness.

In an article published * in June of last year, they determined that individuals who incorporated practicing gratefulness every day had a significant improvement in mental health, sense of well-being, AND they had greater activity in the region of the brain associated with learning and decision making.

Practicing Gratefulness, in a sense, reprograms the brain. There are more studies out there that suggest the same, but the point is that this is what I began to do.

I started a Grateful List.

Every day, I would write down one or two things during the day I was grateful for.

It was a deliberate act that took a bit of effort. Remember, I didn’t see a whole lot of reasons to be wahoo happy for.

But, those little things I found to be grateful for—the amazing designs on a leaf, a sunset, or the colors on a grasshopper—seemed to me, at the very instant I was practicing gratefulness, my negative emotions seemed to cease.

That! Was a miracle to me.

And just like any new habit started, I didn’t really do it every day. Some days I’d forget. Those days were a repeat of the same old horrible dark ick I’ve experienced my whole life.

Gradually over time—the past few years—I started practicing gratefulness every day. Today, I think of at least 10 things, every day, to be grateful for.

I also make sure that each day I practice gratefulness, I don’t think of the same 10 items I used the day before.

This one practice I’ve incorporated into my life has truly helped my whole mental outlook. Healed if you will.

I still have off days but nothing like I had, and I’m quicker to practice gratefulness now that I’m aware of how to bring my head out of the pits when it does tank.

***

Yesterday evening when I left the office after a long, busy day that made my head numb, I happen to look up to see a jet trail.

The sun had just gone over the horizon, and the trail reflected a pinkish hue as the jet streamed overhead.

I thought, Wow! What a sight. I’m so grateful to see—

Then, before I could finish, a brilliant reflection of the sun bounced my way from the plane’s tail. It shimmered, flashed, and the plane seemingly disappeared behind the dark pink trail it left behind.

Again, Whoa! I thought of how lucky I was to be able to see such a sight.

The numbness was driven from my skull that instant and I had a smile on my face before I reached my vehicle.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

***

* Here’s the link to Berkley’s site. Worth the few moments to read through.


<Photo Credit>

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Change, Depression, Life Hack, Living Better, Reinvention, Self, Self-Improvement, Suicide