5 Days of Gratitude and What I Learned
Amanda Mitchell, LCPC, BC-DMT
As therapists, we talk about many coping strategies, ways to calm anxiety, and be mindful of your needs and connect more with intentions and gratitude. The truth is, we know this isn’t easy. We know you will likely face the same challenges over and over. We know there will be moments of frustration or grief when you find yourself repeating old patterns you thought you had moved forward from. We also know despite these moments, as you grow and heal, you will continue to build confidence and find yourself aligning more and more with your true Self.
We know this because we go through this process too. It is not uncommon for me to find myself encouraging a client and realizing I needed to remind myself of the same thing. We make efforts to practice what we preach, but sometimes we too have to go back to the basics. For me, this has recently been grounding in the practice of gratitude.
Not long ago, I found myself hyper-focused on the things I could not control, riddled with anxiety, and uncertain of the source. So, I decided to practice mindful moments of gratitude for fibe days to help me ground and connect with sources of positive energy and thoughts. I spent simply 5-10 minutes each day, allowing intuition and the present moment to be my guide until I felt called to spend an hour in creative reflection on the last day.
I share this part of my journey with you in hopes you will be kind to yourself in those moments of frustration and defeat, knowing you are still on your road to healing and trusting you have the resources within you to get where you are going.
Here is what happened in my five days of gratitude:
I spent 5 minutes meditating on my breath and the body sensations of the emotions I was feeling. I realized I desired to connect with life. I transitioned to walking around my space, visually and emotionally connecting with physical objects and what they represented to me. I found myself feeling thankful for the moments in my past from which many of these objects originated. They reminded me of the importance of taking care of myself and nurturing life. I then watered the plants in my space, knowing that this pause and ritual regularly gives me the opportunity to do just that – nurture life, mine, and the plants! I realized I could breathe a little easier, and three-dimensionally. I occasionally checked in with that sensation throughout my day.
I intentionally talked to family and friends about my thankfulness for them and for my community. Since I had been focusing on points of stress, this took a little effort, but I found it increasingly organic as one conversation led to another. I decided to have my lunch in a different location than usual so I could fully transition my thoughts away from tasks on my to-do list and onto my lunch. I wanted to mindfully enjoy nourishing my body and the sensations and tastes. I realized my gratitude was becoming increasingly unconditional. I had not realized I was applying conditions to what I could feel grateful for, and this was often about how and what I spent my time on.
I created a new orientation to time by doodling (see pictured above), looking at the clock when I needed to, and focusing on the sensation of slowing down. Like unconditional love, I needed to find unconditional gratitude for myself and my experiences. I continue to reflect and ground myself in this realization, as it is part of my ongoing journey.
I continued to connect with people and sources of support while being mindful of my orientation to time. I would intentionally use transitions from one thing to another and applied things I had already learned, like moving to another space if I was having trouble being in the present moment and calming anxious thoughts. I also would check in with my body and my breath during these transitions in order to slow down, identify what I needed, and decide how I wanted to use my time. I was able to stay more present with myself and others as my awareness of my body and power of choice improved.
When I really needed to let everything go, I avoided the stress spiral by literally spiraling my body to the floor. I used the horizontal support of the floor before collecting myself back up, vertically standing and stretching. Then, when ready and without judgement of time, I intentionally moved sagittally forward into the rest of my day.
By day four I found I was able to be mindfully in the moment more and that self-care was more automatic. I felt empowered by the permission to make choices, knowing there are almost always options if we decide to look for them and trust what we feel. I also felt more gratitude for other people and spent time, without feeling guilt or conditions, writing a letter of gratitude for a loved one.
I was surprised to find myself feeling worried and uncertain as it intensified in the final day. This paralleled with a strong need to create. I believe once I was able to calm the anxiety over the course of the previous four days, the source wanted to present itself. With increased visceral and body awareness, but no new cognitive awareness, I began to follow my intuition and create. I knew that body and senses would show me the way until my mind could find understanding. I started with a cleansing ritual and began to paint, allowing lights, shadows, and my environment to play an active role. The shadows, my shadows, wanted to speak and I listened. I needed to feel stable to feel protected and ready for growth and expansion. I painted. I moved. I used my voice. I connected with my past and expressed unconditional gratitude for where I had been so I could accept where I was going. I felt and expressed many emotions until a sense of stability could give me mobility.
Whatever your journey, whether you seek to find gratitude or another source of strength, I encourage you to keep going. You will find more answers. You will learn more lessons. You will have moments of pain. You will have moments of joy. You will continue to find yourself one step closer, even if that means taking a look back.
Want to hear more about my reflections on gratitude? Email me. I am happy to chat with you.