Back on Week 1, you covered how to start a gratitude practice. Gratitude increases patience and also helps to retrain negative thinking toward the positive. Every thought you think is like putting a seed in the soil. Your focus and attention waters each seed with your attention. As you focus more on the positive, you are watering those seeds, which then become plants, and over time they grow larger and larger. As you stop watering the seeds of negativity, those plants slowly begin to wither and die away.
Adding in a new area to be grateful for
Now that you've been doing the practice for awhile, it's time to expand the things you list each day to include the lessons you've learned from experiences that may have initially been quite negative but have led you to much better places. This week, we add in those lessons learned from the denials, rejections, failures, and down-turns that, in the end, have led you to be greater and have a more nuanced understanding of your world.
Spend some time today reviewing those things in life that may have been horrible at the time but have made you better in this moment. You may have found better opportunities, better people, developed a greater sense of compassion, or even just learned an important lesson about what it means to live your life in a better way.
It's important to note that you are adding gratitude for the lessons learned into your practice and not being grateful for the event itself. For example, being grateful for a cancer diagnosis, a physical assault, or being abused as a child would not be healthy or helpful. Being grateful for what you've learned as you've worked through those events is the focus here.
Everything does not happen for a reason
"Everything happens for a reason" is a minimizing statement and it's factually untrue. Yet, many people say it and it can be easily misused as a form of victim-blaming. Sometimes things happen for a reason but not all the time. And it's important to know the difference between what our beliefs and behaviors bring into being (see the post on behavioral confirmation) and what is the result of the random nature of life and even the result of other people's beliefs and behaviors which might have very little to do with us.
If we take the intent of that statement and move it into healthier and more helpful language, we get, "We can use everything that happens to us to grow, learn, and make ourselves better." That is indeed possible. Whether we brought what is happening into being or whether it comes from outside ourselves, we are ultimately in charge of our reaction. We are in charge of our interpretation. We are in charge of what we do with what we've been given -- even the negative experiences.
Look again at the bad events and experiences of your past and see the lessons you've learned. Embrace those lessons with gratitude.
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