There are a lot of pessimistic people in this world. I know, I used to be one of them. Ok, I wasn’t pessimistic all of the time, but when confronted with a challenge, I found my mind would typically focus on the negative. Or when I had a bad day, I would lie in bed that night and ruminate on what went wrong and worry about everything else that might go wrong as a result.
I started to better understand the benefits of focusing on the positive when I read a book titled Appreciative Coaching by Sarah Orem, Jacqueline Binkert and Ann Clancy, as part of a coach training program a number of years ago. That book helped me understand that focusing on the positive opens us up to possibilities, while dwelling on the negative shuts us down mentally. By ruminating on the negatives of my day, I was effectively preventing myself from creatively addressing my challenges. I find a lot of folks I meet with ADHD are stuck on the same treadmill of negativity I was. Let’s face it, life is a little more challenging as an adult with ADHD and if you let it control you instead of taking control of it, there can be a lot of negative consequences – difficulties at work, troubled relationships, the list goes on and on. What if you could get off that negative treadmill though? What might be possible if you were able to shut the door on negativity and approach life from a more open and positive perspective? I’m in the process of learning to do this. It is definitely a process and one that I practice diligently each day, but it is paying off.
The key here is finding a portal to the positive. My portal came in the form of a daily gratitude journal. I started my journal a little over a year ago and I keep it on my iPad in an app called Penultimate so I always have it with me and can add to my daily entry at any time. I usually write in it though before going to sleep each night. It’s darn near impossible to ruminate on the negative as you fade into sleep, when you are focusing on the positive just before turning out the light. I don’t write paragraphs or even much in the way of detail, as no one really has to understand my acknowledgment of what I was thankful for. A typical entry is a bulleted list of anywhere from three to five things or happenings that I’m grateful for that day, such as a dinner with my entire family, spending some time talking with one of my teenagers, or having time to spend in the garden.
Practicing gratitude in this way has changed my life. Even on the worst days, we all have so much to be thankful for. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn says (please allow me the liberty to paraphrase) – As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than is wrong with you. In today’s fast paced, pressure-cooker of a world we too often forget this. At the recent conference of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, Dr. Fred Luskin, Stanford University professor and author of the book Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, shared three core qualities that are alternatives to the harshness in our world: gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. How about giving gratitude a try?