When Will the Waves Stop: Can Anxiety and Gratitude Coexist in our Minds and Bodies
My young niece was playing at the edge of the ocean and the waves kept rolling in. She just wanted to play in the water and not be disturbed by the waves. Finally, she looked up at her Mom and asked, “When will the waves stop?”
Do you ever have a similar feeling? You just want to do what needs to be done without the distractions. And do your distractions feel like the constant never-ending ocean waves?
While my niece was asking an innocent question, as adults, we have similar grown-up questions about when will we have some quiet uninterrupted time.
Today, I want to share with you an emotion that is opposite of anxiety, fear, hate, or other negative emotions. But first, let me share what just happened to me.
The ocean waves continued to tumble
Yet another text arrived last night from the person not playing well with the group. For the last two weeks, she has been terrorizing us with threatening messages – each one worse than the one before.
This finally got the best of me and my joyful spirit collapsed into a puddle of anxiety. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think clearly. My first reaction was to lash out at her, but I knew better than to do that.
Morning came and my mindset was to take positive action. I had recently heard Tony Robbins say that you cannot feel fear and gratitude at the same time. So I decided to supercharge my daily gratitude list. I took time to write elaborate descriptions of a long list of people and things that I was grateful for that day.
I also thought of one of my favorite Bible verses, “Give thanks in all circumstances,” found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. How could I possibly give thanks in this situation? The first thought that came to mind was my friend, Max. He was one of my biggest supporters and he’s a part of the group. I am definitely grateful for Max’s concern for me today.
And I must tell you what Max said to me, “Don’t get sidetracked or upset. Satan sends others to steal and destroy. Continue doing the good works and cast him/her off. Stay positive and leave it all to God to fight.”
Anxiety vs Gratitude
Physiologically, our brains cannot respond to negative emotions (fear, anxiety, stress) and positive emotions (gratitude) at the same time. So, if you’re practicing gratitude, you have a way to reduce anxiety, frustration and feeling overwhelmed.
(A little disclaimer here – I’m not a doctor. Please do not stop taking your meds.)
The effects of practicing gratitude can be magical but do not happen immediately. Making gratitude and positive thoughts a part of your regular routine will train the brain to reduce anxiety, apprehension, and other negative emotions.
And gratitude is a powerful emotion. It releases dopamine into our systems – the feel-good hormone. As it floods your body with endorphins, you feel uplifted and encouraged.
A sense of gratefulness can enhance your mood immediately and help to reduce the stress hormones that drag you down. It helps to keep you grounded.
As you make gratitude a regular habit in your routine, it will start to relieve you of the negative thoughts that cause anxiety by reminding you to refocus your energies on positivity.
Anxiety can feel like tightness in your chest or shortness of breath.
But gratitude can slow your breath and open your heart.
As it becomes a habit, anxiety, fear, stress, or depression will have less of a hold on you.
Try these techniques to get you started:
- Start by appreciating yourself with positive self-talk.
- Link up with a gratitude buddy – someone positive to always talk you through the negative times.
- Train your brain to look for something good in every person or situation.
- Regularly write in a gratitude journal.
Can you interrupt your anxiety or stress with gratitude?
Gratitude can actually be the solution to anger, fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, depression, apprehension, or feeling overwhelmed, along with many other negative emotions.
Those negative emotions cannot be present when you’re in a grateful mindset.
I must add here that all of this sounds great, and actually does work. But as you can imagine, it can be much harder than it seems. When you are stuck in any kind of negative emotion, it’s much easier to become angry or fall apart. Looking for gratitude and positive thoughts likely won’t come naturally or easy. You have to make a conscious decision to not let the negativity derail all the good things in your life.
A sweet friend of mine just said to me that gratitude is like wearing a shield of armor. You’ve built up this shield and now you can use it to fight your battles.
There are many ways to practice gratitude but I’d love to share a few of my favorites with you.
Upon awakening each morning, let your first thoughts be of gratitude. Say thank you for some of the things or people that are important to you….. your family, your health, the rain, for example.
And the main tool in your gratitude practice is a journal for recording all the goodness in your life. This could be as simple as a legal pad or spiral notebook. Or, you may opt for one of the more elegant journals available. I’ve been journaling for at least 25 years, so I have used quite a variety of notebooks and journals.
Along with writing down what you are thankful for each day, also try to visualize what it is you are grateful for. This helps to internalize your thoughts.
Or say out loud what it is you are grateful for. Now, you are not only thinking of gratitude, but you are also hearing it. This doubles your benefit.
I have a friend who says each morning as he goes around his home opening the blinds, he expresses aloud that he is grateful for each thing he sees out his windows.
The opposite emotion
I hope you can see how gratitude is the positive emotion to offset all the various negative emotions of anxiety, fear, hate, and many more. The next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try supercharging your gratitude and see if you can flip the switch from negative to positive.
And hey, please send me a message or leave me a comment to let me know if it worked. I’d love to hear from you.
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