I should have listened sooner! A secret to beating overwhelm.

Walt told me that should use a gratitude practice to beat the overwhelm and overload I was feeling. I thought he was crazy. How was I supposed to slow down and get into the mushy headspace of gratitude when the wheels were coming off? I needed concrete tactics that would make a difference right away. I’d get to gratitude later – once I came out the other side.

I was wrong, but I couldn’t see it.

I was so stuck in the mental model that things were bad that I didn’t even allow myself to consider the possibility that there were things I could be grateful for. Looking back at that time now I realize how silly that thought pattern was. But when the world feels like it’s crashing and around you, and everything’s out of control, it’s very easy to get caught in a cycle of negative emotions and feelings. If you don’t interrupt the cycle it will get worse and worse until something gives out – or you run out of altitude.

Fast forward to today and I’m a believer – because gratitude really works – especially when it’s part of a routine of mindfulness. Here’s how you can give it a try for yourself.

Stop. Sit. Breathe. This simple technique is amazingly powerful to get you to slow down and calm your mind. Sit comfortably, without outside distraction. Breathe deeply. In to the count of 4. Hold for 4. Exhale for 4. Repeat. Do it 4 times.

Reflect and Think. Now that your brain has shifted out of high gear you’ll be free to identify some things that you are grateful for. There has to be something and if you sit with it long enough you will find it. You might have to sift through a lot of head trash to find it, but it is there. It might be your health, your kids, your significant other, the birds singing outside anything. Once you’ve found 1 keep going. Find 5. You may find yourself on a roll, identifying more than 5. That’s great. Keep going.

Write Old School (by hand). Our brains behave differently when we write longhand versus typing. Get a notebook and pen and have it handy. Write down the 5 things you’re grateful for. Stay with gratitude. Avoid the lure of adding a ‘but’ at the end like: “I’m grateful for my health, but there is so much more I could be doing”. Cut everything after the “but”.

Repeat Regularly. Start with once a week, and work your way up to 5 days a week, or every day if it serves you. The more you repeat the process the more powerful it becomes, and the more you’ll want to do it. Don’t worry about whether you’re writing the same or similar things day to day. Take the opportunity to re-read prior entries when you’re stuck. And if it starts to feel stale or mechanical then that’s your signal to go deeper and wider on what you’re choosing.

My inner skeptic has been silenced – at least on this topic – because I’ve seen how it works.

Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.