This busy world is full of “To Do” lists and distractions galore. One thing that has really helped me gain a different and happier perspective is the practice of gratitude. My practice of gratitude is still a work in progress. However, I find that the more I work at it, the easier it gets. And the better I feel about myself and about those around me.
A few of the things I have started to do:
Physically writing down what I am grateful for. This helps use muscle memory and makes the items I am thankful for seem more real and hard to forget.
Thinking about things beyond my control, at the start of my day, and at the end. This helps me to frame my day, and also keeps me humble. I may feel like I can control a lot of things, but there is so much in life that is happenstance and chance. This is not something to bring fear or unhappiness. Rather, it should bring wonder each and every day. So much in this life is a blessing.
Go to bed each night thinking of my family. My family is undoubtedly the thing I am most thankful for. I smile and laugh to myself recounting some of the craziness and silliness that has happened that day. I try to capture some of this with photos and notes to myself. But it is amazing how many little memories are built each hour, each day, and each week. Time really does fly by. Today is a gift, and I try to live more in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or fretting over the future.
Future plans: A Gratitude Journal
These are my simple starting points, that have at least gotten the ball rolling for me. In time (perhaps as a New Years Resolution), I hope to start a gratitude journal. That should be a more concrete way to record some of my thoughts and feelings. It should be fun to look back on things I may have forgotten.
Gratitude: Turning Negative Thoughts Around
For now, though, I think what I have started has built a daily routine that changes my perspective for the better. It is easy to get down on things in the world and get down on myself when things are not going well. This approach of gratitude helps reframe my thoughts in a healthier and more productive way.
We have all had an injury, be it physical or emotional. My recent marathon training and first marathon included fortunately minor and self limited injuries – bruises, scrapes, strains, and sprains. In my day to day encounters with other people, disagreements and negative exchanges of energy crop up from time to time. From these encounters, I have suffered emotional bruises. I have honed my approach to injuries over the years, and broken it down into 5 steps. My approach has helped me cope and thrive, and I am happy to share my approach with you here.
Acknowledge and name the injury.
Come up with a realistic plan for rehab.
Revisit your rehab plan regularly. If things are not going as you expected, adjust accordingly.
Return to your normal activities. Take a moment of gratitude for your return to normal activities, and your ability to heal from your injury.
Troubleshoot why the injury happened, and strategize ways to avoid the same injury in the future.
1. Acknowledge And Name The Injury.
This allows you time to comprehend and describe the injury to yourself. Physical injuries are often obvious. A scrape or abrasion of the skin. An evolving bruise. An ankle sprain causing pain and limping. More complex, however, are injuries and hurt under the surface. Overtraining and burnout. Hurt feelings. Disappointment at missing out on an opportunity. Anger when someone else has wronged you.
I recommend you take several minutes to yourself and ruminate over the injury. What is it that you feel? Why do you feel that way? Do not simply think negatively and take a “woe is me” attitude. “Well, I fell and now I have a big bruise on my knee. What will I do now?” Rather, better evaluate your feelings and response to the injury. What are your collections of feelings causing you to feel badly? What are the physical symptoms and emotional symptoms that you feel, and what was the sequence of events leading you to this?
2. Come Up With A Realistic Plan For Rehab.
Physical injuries are no fun. If you are training for a specific goal, they can seem insurmountable and goal ending. However, do not take such a quick, pessimistic approach before fully analyzing the situation. Where are you in your training? How long will it take to recover or heal? Is there a way to cross train through the injury, in say 3-4 days? How can you reasonably but safely return to your sport?
Emotional injuries are equally unpalatable. It may be wise to take 5-10 minutes to yourself to think through and meditate over your feelings. Also yourself to privately feel what you feel, on your own time. If you can, allow the feeling to burn out a bit before returning to your usual activities. Consider talking to those around you about what you are experiencing. Or consider journaling about your experiences right there on the spot or later in the day. Come up with a time period over which to feel what you feel.
For example, on my evening after a “bad day,” when I get a moment alone, I allow myself 15-30 minutes to think through what happened. I then try to push it down and use another 15-30 minutes to look toward the positives, and what I can do differently the next time. The next morning, if the negative situation returns to my mind, I set the thought aside and instead focus on my day ahead and think how I can do things better.
I find dwelling on the past too long, and what I cannot change, is harmful and counterproductive . I have instead taken a strategy of setting a time limit on my thoughts, and then think more of the present and my future actions.
3. Revisit Your Rehab Plan Regularly. If Things Are Not Going As You Expected, Adjust Accordingly.
I try to do this every few days or every week as I am in my rehab plan. It helps me assess my progress objectively, e.g. “I feel 70% back to normal. ” I then see if I can adjust my return to full activity sooner or later than I expected. This constant assessment and adjustment is helpful not just with injuries but other aspects of your life. For example, I use this when I assess my spending plans or my progress in paying off my debts.
4. Return To Your Normal Activities. Take A Moment Of Gratitude For Your Return To Normal Activities, And Your Ability To Heal From Your Injury.
When you feel ready, go ahead and make the leap! Go back to the activity you enjoy. Do not simply rush back into what you love. I find it helpful to briefly appreciate how I was able to heal and overcome the injury I had a few days or a few weeks before. Practicing gratitude is a great habit, particularly when celebrating your accomplishments.
5. Troubleshoot why the injury happened, and strategize ways to avoid the same injury in the future.
As a scientist and engineer, I like to analyze systems and why things are running the way they are. I particularly try this analysis when things are not going smoothly. For example, if you feel burnout and excessive fatigue, try to analyze why. How much are you training? How much sleep are you getting? Has your nutrition been satisfactory or poor? Once I write down some of the factors that I feel led to the injury, I try to come up with ways to prevent a repeat injury. In the example above, I would re-analyze my sleep patterns, and work to get to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each night until I felt more rested.
The Rollercoaster of Life
I hope the tips I have shared will help you as you work through your next injury. Please feel free to share your own strategies for overcoming obstacles in your own life!
I have been looking more consistently at the “optimistic” side of things lately. And it has totally turned my day to day activities around, for the better! Instead of dreading a long tedious day at work, I look at the positives, with each minute and each hour. How can I help my next patient? What things can I learn from him or her? What makes this fellow human being interesting and valuable? Also, I look inward every now and then and take stock in what accomplishments I have made. Look at how far I have come! Several years into practice, I now have the experience and confidence to make decisions that I would agonize over for several minutes.
What about all the Bad Stuff Out There?
I know, I know, you read or watch the news and you cannot help but see all of the negativity out there. You sometimes cannot help but yield to the pessimism that surrounds us. But, it really matters how you perceive and look at things, since your attitude has a huge bearing on how you feel. I also think that having this positive outlook will improve your gratitude and thankfulness for all of the good in your life. And this will make you a better person!
I credit my more positive attitude to my binge-listening of “Optimal Living Daily,” a free podcast that reads short clips from various personal development blogs out there. Totally digestible, as they are short chunks of high yield information. I wish I had found this earlier! This is a great way to break up your morning commute. I personally add them to my morning workout playlist, which makes my workout breeze by. I also am addicted to Optimal Finance Daily, another offering from the Optimal Living Daily creators. These short clips from financial blogs will help improve your financial health. Please try them out!