Positive affirmations and gratitudes seem to be everywhere these days. My Facebook feed fills up with daily thanksgiving posts in November. A very few of my friends do this on a regular basis throughout the year. A quick search on Google finds thousands of ready-made affirmations, gratitude bulletin boards, etc. As I have worked these things into my daily practice, though, I have found I have some rules that I follow that make it actually work for me well beyond the fleeting bliss of clicking a “Share” or “Like” button.
First off, it is an item on my daily to-do list. When I put it there, I was a little afraid that it would become too much of a chore, and indeed it often feels like it when I see that item poking me from my HabitRPG app. Once I get it done, though, I do feel the positive change, and it is a shift that can last.
Second, it must be shared. Whether in a shared devotional online or on my private Facebook page, I can’t check that item off my list unless I have sent those words out into the world, preferably where they have a chance of being seen or heard by others. I have found that if I speak the words to myself or my gods, at my altar or looking out the window or whatever, I put less thought into them and care less about the meaning; I am less likely to remember them and act in accordance with them throughout the day. When I know others will be looking, I am more careful of the words I use, and pulling the words out of my mind, through my fingers and out into the internet gives them an emotional structure and pull that I don’t feel otherwise. I also believe that the three-fold law applies and is amplified when I create those ripples that touch other people, even if only for a moment.
Every day I plan to make at least one positive affirmation and at least five gratitudes. I also don’t allow myself any “gimmes”. Of course I’m grateful to be alive, for my family and friends, my home, etc. But it would be entirely too easy to rattle those types of things off every day and call it good. Instead, I look to what happened yesterday and what I expect to happen today and form my statements around that, or if nothing pops out for affirmations I may pull out some long-term goals. I don’t feel like copying what somebody else said counts, either. No dittos, no sharing a meme and calling it good. I have to construct these out of my own thoughts and experiences.
Positive is a very important word here. Nothing negative is allowed, not even in the context of a positive statement. No matter what, every “no,” “not”, “can’t”, etc., is ruthlessly purged from my statements. As somebody who has always struggled with depression, it can be very hard to stay positive. It is a form of thought reprogramming, though, and it does work. I may have to do mental and verbal gymnastics to form a positive affirmation about whatever has me sad and down, but once I do, my mind actually starts to see things in that new perspective.
One of the things that it is easy for me to get upset and stressed about is the general constant chaos that swirls around me on a daily basis. I can capture that and turn it around in an affirmation by saying, “I am at peace, I am the eye of the storm that swirls around me, a haven of calm.” I can use it in gratitudes like, “I am grateful for the life I see in my children every day,” or “I am grateful to be strong enough to survive my day.”
Am I having a hard day, where Kender is constantly screaming at me and things are getting broken? “I am grateful for the progress Kender has made in learning to communicate.” “I am grateful that I can fix or replace or live beyond my broken things.”
Do I feel a bit broke in the budget department? Do I feel like I can’t get anything accomplished? “All things I need come to me, and all things that need doing get done in time.”
Frustrated about my pain levels? “I am grateful for the experience I had being a long-distance runner.” Upset about things I haven’t finished? “I am grateful for the opportunity to begin anew.”
Sometimes it does come back to the little or obvious things. I may say I’m grateful for coffee, or A’Kos the Super Wonder Service Dog, or the house that keeps me warm as the cold, cold winds blow outside. But it’s more likely to happen on a day when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, or when I expect to be taking Kender out in public, or when it’s 20 below outside and my fingers are numb typing at my basement computer. Always bringing it back to the present, to what is actually happening, to the things that I am thinking about and feeling now.
It’s a baby step. But it is a helpful one, and a practice I am grateful to have learned to apply for myself.