At this time of year as the mild weather rolls in many people are inspired to get in shape by heading out doors to walk and jog. For the last 15 years or so, I’ve found Spring to be the most depressing season. The sight of smiling individuals swinging their arms enjoying a vigorous walk pierced my heart with a sharp pang of envy. As for the joggers, I wanted to open my car window and furiously shout, “Do you know how lucky you are!”
But lately I’ve started to realize that, though they can do something I cannot, I have no idea what their lives are like, what challenges they are facing, what preys on their minds. And my attitude was not making me feel any better about my current limitations. In fact, I often felt sad for hours.
Clearly, this was not how I wanted to live … so easily able to slip into sadness at seeing what I couldn’t do. I’ve often said that an effective way to relieve pain of any kind is to look for something good. Sometimes it means that we need to stand in a different place so that our gaze is focused at an alternate angle.
This applies in so many areas our lives. Does your neighbor have a car you wish you could afford? How about that friend who wears a size 2 … oh, if only you could do the same. And then there are those photos on Facebook of tanned faces on exotic beaches. I could go on but you get my drift. You may see all of these as things you deserve but cannot enjoy. You feel sad, envious, deprived, even angry.
Taking this view does nothing to bring you closer to having any of what they have and it robs you of enjoying what you do have. It’s time again to look for the good but this time instead of looking outward turn your gaze back on yourself and your present life.
Set aside a time to sit quietly and breathe, a couple of good deep breaths. Lower those shoulders from up around your ears and allow your entire body to relax. Depending on how deprived, envious, angry you feel, this may take thirty seconds or several minutes. Once you feel grounded close your eyes and really focus on those things in your life that make you happy, that you can’t imagine living without, that make you feel grateful.
At first this may be slow going but don’t give up. Include everything … a good friend or two, family members, a pet, your house, a comfy chair, cable TV, a favorite shirt, your eye brows, … seriously, I’m talking about every single thing in your life that makes you smile. Soon you will find that you have quite a long list.
Speaking of lists, it might help to write down all of your gifts. When times get rough, you can take a look at it anew. I guarantee it will lift your spirits and brighten your day no matter what nasty business may be going on.
It’s such a simple concept but very powerful. Now when I see those walkers and joggers, even though I may start to wish I were out there with them, I remember the joys unique to me. Yes, mine is a very good life indeed.
For a slightly different perspective on this perspective here’s Kate Northrup.
“The next time your situation threatens to steal your joy, try to remember… somebody wants what you have.”
Chris, you are truely an inspiration. I am going to do this (a list) and pass it on to others.
Thanks for your the encouraging reply. Sometimes I don’t know if anyone is actually reading these things. And thank you for sharing. It means a lot.