Gratitude is the most potent antidote to the poison of sorrow. Gratitude does not heal your wounds. Gratitude does not allow you to violate the laws of the universe to travel back through time to undo transgressions. Gratitude does not even reduce the emotional impact of a negative occurrence in your life. The power of gratitude is that it gets you to see the world from an unselfish perspective.
Gratitude is not like the shade of sunglasses that guards against the intensity of light. Rather, it is like the neck that turns your head in the other direction so that you can look at something less damaging. This is not the same as ignoring a problem.
Keeping with the analogy, ignoring the problem would be the equivalent of going inside and never facing the intense sunlight again. Instead, this action allows you to remain an active participant in the world until the time (if the time ever comes) the intensity of the light decreases.
Now if you’ve already got a sunburn, looking away from the sun won’t undue the damage. It won’t make it heal faster. It won’t even reduce the pain. But it will allow you to see that you have things other than the limb that suffered damage.
Pain brings focus. Often this is a positive but when you can’t focus on anything else and the accompanying misery, you are no longer living.
Your pain may be physical, mental or emotional. It may be permanently damaging; it may heal in a few weeks or it may heal instantly. The pain may be slight, mild or severe. Regardless of its type, duration or severity, gratitude works because it forces you to focus on something beyond than your own suffering.
This is due to a universal rule. No type of matter can occupy the same space and time as another. Your thoughts, though you are unable to touch them, are a type of matter. You may think you are holding many thoughts simultaneously, but you are actually quickly switching your focus amongst them. When you remember that you can only hold one thought at a time, the workings behind gratitude make a lot more sense.
If you focus on something good, it’s impossible to you think about the bad. Your concentration and focus may waiver in doing so, but that’s alright. Even when looking away from the sunlight, your neck tires and in the midst of changing views, you get a glimpse of the painful yet hypnotic light.
What’s important is that you quickly regain your gratitude perspective. You quickly refocus on the constructive and positive forces in your life; Not on the destructive and negative agents.
I can hear the objections. “What if there is nothing good in my life? My life is terrible and everything is painful to look at! How can this gratitude perspective work for me if everything I look at brings me misery?” To this unfortunate soul, I say one thing: You’re being selfish.
If you are alive, then you are part of a fantastic world. There is so much about the world and the time you were born that make it truly wonderful. Once in my life, things were getting bad. To combat the feelings of self-pity that were developing, I reminded myself that I’m grateful to be able to look at pretty girls because there are blind people in the world.
You might say, “That’s just eyesight! There’s nothing special about that!” Then you’re missing the point. Your eyesight, like all things in the world, is a privilege. You aren’t promised eye-sight any more than you are promised a hot meal or a place to sleep at night. Even if you only have the clothing on your back, but grateful for that.
Alternatively, you can focus on unselfish action. When you get out and add to the world through your actions, then it is impossible to focus on your own problems. If you’re busy giving your time and energy to uplifting the world and the people in it, you have no energy left to focus on your own issues.
Shaping a part of the world by your own hand makes you a creator. What you create is part of you, even if you do not possess it. Now you have a portion of your life to look towards instead of the thing that brings you misery. In this way, you have built something to turn your gaze on and feel grateful towards.
Ultimately, gratitude changes our focus. This is necessary because pain can distract us from the world, preventing us from acting purposefully. Obsession with sorrow results in paralysis. It is only through action that we can move on and gain perspective. It is not time alone that gets you past something. You also need to do things that force you to focus on better aspects of life.
This is the gratitude formula. Switch your focus to something in your life that brings you joy. If you feel like you truly have nothing, create something or build someone up. Do the last step anyway. It will dramatically decrease the amount of time spent feeling sorry for yourself. The rest is up to you.
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