Thursday, October 2, 2014
I experience anxiety intermittently throughout the day. I have good days and not-so-good days, but a few days ago, I discovered a really effective antidote to anxiety. Drum roll please~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The cure for anxiety is: gratitude! Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh, I’ve heard that before. Gratitude doesn’t really work for me,” hear me out, because I used to be one of those people who thought gratitude was overrated.
I was listening to the Hay House radio on Saturday and learned of a Harvard-trained, medical scientist named Joan Borysenko. She spoke about how we can create a neural circuit of gratitude in our brain by practicing the feeling of gratitude everyday. I am sure we all have done something like keeping a gratitude journal or listing on Facebook the three things we were grateful for that day. I kept a gratitude list using an app on my phone and wrote down 3-4 things everyday for about a couple of months.
The result? Nothing. I didn’t feel any more grateful than I was two months ago.
Then, Dr. Borysenko said something that made a light bulb go off in my head. She said in order to create and strengthen the neural circuit of gratitude, we have to infuse it with the true feeling of gratitude—not just with thoughts about what weshould be grateful for—and strengthen it with daily practice. That’s when I realized why the gratitude app didn’t work for me; the practice was just a chore, something I needed to check off before the end of the day.
After listening to her on the radio, I immediately sat down and thought of one thing I was deeply, truly grateful for. I had attended an event to commemorate Korean War veterans earlier that day, and as I watched the footage of the war, I felt a heartfelt thanks to those who had sacrificed their lives while fighting in the war. So, I said to my self, “I am deeply grateful for the veterans,” and repeated for several minutes while feeling the feeling of gratitude.
Amazingly, when I awoke the next morning, instead of anxiety rising up with the thought of what I needed to do that day, I felt grateful. I was grateful that I was given another day, another chance to be better. So, I took advantage of that feeling and stayed with it for a few minutes, creating a momentum and strengthening my neural circuit. It’s only been a few days, but I already feel better. Whenever anxiety rises, I look for something to be deeply grateful for and give my thanks.
I realized that in order to weaken my habitual feeling of anxiety (or whatever negative emotion ails you), I needed to let its neural circuit wither by not reinforcing it. And to do that, I needed to divert my energy to something else—in this case, to gratitude—before it gains momentum. By deliberately choosing gratitude over anxiety, I can choose my daily reality. This will take time and commitment, but I think it will be a worthwhile investment.
So, I will let you know how this goes. Better yet, you can try it with me, and tell me how it went for you! I will keep you posted!