I’m stepping into this a little bit late–like 16 days into November late–but I only just learned of the #ChronicallyGrateful Challenge a few days ago. My Twitter friends Molly Shreiber(@mollyschreiber, http://www.atjax.wordpress.com and Alan Brewington (@abrewi3010, http://www.paintalks.com) have been tweeting and/or posting their answers to the challenge daily–and they’ve been totally wonderful. Do take a look.
So, here’s my answer to Day 16’s challenge: On a bad day, what is a way to redirect yourself to a more positive place?
Well, if you’ve been reading RheumaBlog or following me on Twitter for very long, you already know my answer: I look for the Gifts. Which means, basically, being mindful–being present in this moment right now–and noticing the beauties, both small and large, that the world offers us for free each and every day and each and every moment.
Today my hands are stiff and achey–that deep, sick ache inside the joints that almost feels like both hands are nauseous. This pain won’t keep me from writing or painting, or from doing the things I need to do today. After so many years of coping with rheumatoid disease, I can keep on with my life in spite of this kind of naggy pain. But it does affect my overall mood. This kind of pain can make me feel subtly blue. It can sap my energy–my spoons–and make me listless and distracted. It can make me feel glum.
So here are some examples of the Gifts that can easily redirect me to a more “positive place:”
- Submerging my sore hands and wrists in a sink of warm/hot water. The sensation is instantly and profoundly soothing, and it makes me sigh and smile. After a few minutes of slowly flexing my hands within that warmth, I feel better in my head, even if my hands still hurt. I know that I can revisit this small therapy–this Gift–anytime; it only takes five minutes or so. Knowing that is soothing, too.
- Taking a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long one. Even five or ten minutes is enough. This kind of walk isn’t really for exercise (though it can turn into that, sometimes, which is another Gift). Instead, this is a Watchful Walk. I walk slowly, breathing deep and looking–really looking–at the world around me. The Gifts emerge: a neighbor’s beautifully tended garden; two squirrels chasing each other and playing in the old Valley oak tree; a quick flight of six flashy, black-and-white magpies, cackling as they go.
- Doing something nice or helpful for someone else. For me, most often this is for my mother, who I live with and care for. She’s often cold–especially now that the crisp, cool air of autumn has finally arrived here in Northern California. Last night, she was curled up on the sofa with a light throw over her, her legs and arms all drawn in close to her body. She was obviously chilled and uncomfortable, so I got her one of the nice, thick, warm, doubled-fleece throws the neighbor kids made for us a couple of Christmases back. Mom was delighted: cuddling into the throw conjured a happy memory–and she was instantly warmer at the same time. Doing this small thing for her took my mind off my painful hip last night and redirected my thoughts onto a pure positive. It was a win for both of us.
These are just a few of the Gifts I look for, sometimes on purpose (as with the hot water, or by taking a walk) and sometimes by habit (helping Mom warm up). Each of them is an act of positive redirection that puts my mind and heart in a better place. The Gifts are especially precious on bad days, but I treasure them–and cultivate them–every day.
You can too.