This Bipolar Life: The Gift of Gratitude

Now, has this been easy? Not at all. Am I good at it? Nope. Do I strive for it? Every single day. Do I reach my goal? Sometimes. More than I used to that’s for sure. Hell, every day over 40 I improve. First because I care less about little things but also because I do a better job of it when I remember the lesson was handed down from my gram. She was one smart lady and this just might have been her greatest gift to me. Even if it has taken decades for me to figure it out.

So, when I first read about the power of gratitude and positivity I initially thought it to be a bunch of hooey. Instead I’ve learned it’s among the most helpful tools in managing bipolar, and, I’m guessing just as important in people without mental illness. Read on for insight into my journey to gratitude and how you can achieve the ‘Power of Positivity’ in your life.

My initial introduction to living a gratitude-filled life was actually from my grandmother. Of course, at the time I was too young (in my self-centered 20s) to grasp the concept, much less integrate it as a life view. Instead I reared up against it, asserting that I knew better, life was to be accepted as-is, and was designed for us to either accept or figure out a way to work against or around it.

Now, my gram was one of the happier people I’ve known and she gave me a few on the subject of gratitude. Most of which I took with a grain of salt. So that being said, what do I do with a book? Well, hell. I research it left and right. Realizing most books on the subject of gratitude have at least some merit I set out to find out whatever I could about them, authors, topics, citations, etc. What I learned was that gratitude was a way of life. It was not about a perspective but rather how life would rise up in waves of positivity if only we called that to ourselves through how we choose to live.

So, how do we build a life around gratitude?

  1. Keep a journal with one positive thing that happened. Try for every day but for starters work on once per week. And yes, a typed journal will work just fine.
  2. Walk. Just walk. Anywhere. For however long you can. Just walk. You’d be amazed how much being outside helps. Even in the downtown core. Look around. Fill your senses. Just get out of your head.
  3. Read happynews.com or the Huffington Post’s “Good News” section.
  4. For a good reality check (as in life in general is good but a good reminder never hurts, check out Humans of New York, where everyday lives are featured. Great opportunity to remember that while there is negativity all around us, so to is there positive. It’s not all about the bad – think on that.
  5. Keep to a regular sleep schedule. It’s easier to be in a good mood when you’re properly rested.
  6. Say “thank you” to at least one person each day. Just one.
  7. Treat your body as if it deserves at least a little respect for hauling your ass around each day. It’s a miracle – try to treat it as such.
  8. Same goes for your mind – even if it needs meds. Just because it’s not “normal” doesn’t mean it’s not phenomenal. It’s a feat of nature just to get where its at. Be grateful for it – especially when it feels the most fragile.
  9. Be nice to your friends. Tell at least one person how much they mean to you. Friendships are critical to life satisfaction and even more important when you have a mental illness.
  10. Be mindful. I know, stupid and unnecessary right? Nope. It’s probably the most important thing on this list, which is why I’ve put it last. I’ll do a whole other blog post on this subject, but just notice one color today. Just one sense, vision. Find it and  notice its shading and other features. It’s beauty (or not) and your feeling when you see it. Not judging it, just seeing it and giving it a moment in  your life.

Is life perfect when positive? No, of course not. But it’s better than the alternative. So give it a try. Nothing left to lose, right?

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