Appreciate the Ordinary
When you're busy or feeling stressed, or even if you spend just a bit of time reading about current events, you can easily feel overwhelmed. In times like these, you might be more inclined to focus on all the things that are going wrong or needing to get done, rather than recognizing what you do have and what (or who) is supporting you. Part of this tendency comes from what is known as our "negativity bias."
Negativity bias is something we inherited from our ancestors: their evolutionary need to survive meant that they constantly scanned their environment for danger. Fear and anger helped them to focus on survival threats. Our brains often work in a similar way ~ scanning for what might go wrong or be wrong in our lives, our environment, and ourselves.
And, of course, there are things that you need to be aware of in our lives ~ dangers that you are wise to pay attention to, to avoid, and actions you may want to take in response.
Sometimes, though, you can get stuck in a kind of habitual scanning ~ looking for the next problem to solve, rather than appreciating something about the ways things are right now. Or, you can feel totally frozen, unable to really think because the problems seem too big. This can leave you feeling drained, numb and even more overwhelmed.
In my April newsletter, I wrote about working with/counterbalancing our brain's negativity bias by paying attention to and savoring the things that you feel drawn to. This month, I'm sharing a gratitude practice from the MSC course that can help you tap into the power of appreciating the ordinary. It's a way to relate more compassionately to yourself and your experience, and to find a greater sense of equilibrium during challenging times. It's widely acknowledged that practicing gratitude has many benefits, and this practice is often surprisingly enlivening.
You can practice appreciating the ordinary by sitting quietly for a few moments. As you pause, reflect on your life or a typical day and see if you can name 10 tangible, everyday things that you really and truly appreciate, but that you typically take for granted. Some examples might be: heat, buttons, clean water, soap, erasers, ear plugs, coffee, pens, dental floss, wind chimes, books. You might want to write down your list. Notice how you feel after identifying and appreciating these ordinary things you may have not thought much about!
You can try this practice daily. You can also remember to appreciate the ordinary when you notice that you feel overwhelmed and need to remember what you do have. Taking just a few moments to recognize the small, important things can help you recalibrate when life feels like too much.