Last week we talked about motivators. At the time, I didn’t know how much I would need my own advice. It’s been a rough week. An emotional roller coaster. We all have them from time to time.
Days when we are filled with mixed emotions. Happiness and sorrow. Grief and relief. Frustration and gratefulness. And while positive motivation is great, we still need to leave room in our lives for sadness, grief, anger, and other emotions that bring balance to our days.
Expect the Unexpected
On Sunday, I learned my brother-in-law, Bob, passed away after a debilitating illness that had slowly stolen his mobility for the past 10 years. Yes, he is in a better place and no longer in pain (please, don’t point this out to the bereaved, if it is said, it needs to come from them). And although he lived twice as long as expected, he was only in his 50’s. We are thankful he left this world peacefully in his sleep. But we are all saddened by the loss and will miss him.
Tuesday, I fell on an uneven sidewalk and broke my foot. Arrggghhh! The pain isn’t as bad as the lack of mobility and the additional time it takes me to do the simplest task. Sitting still and being patient are definitely not things I do well! I am thankful that it seems to be a minor break and I am rarely in pain.
On Thursday, my youngest grandchild was on a sixth-grade field trip when the driver lost control of the bus on a busy freeway, traumatizing the children and sending several to the hospital. Again, we are thankful that she was released from the hospital with no physical injuries. We’re grateful that her quick reaction helped a classmate stay in his wheelchair during the accident.
Difficulties, Losses, Setbacks
How do we deal with them? If you think I’m going to encourage you to shake it off, smile, and be grateful, you are mistaken!
Loss, grief, pain or angst are a very real part of life. To ignore these emotions would be like the ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. It’s not healthy nor is it advisable. Although I frequently encourage gratitude and positivity, feelings of sadness and grief are a part of life and can be helpful.
Acknowledging and dealing with our various emotions may be good for our overall well-being, according to a study conducted by Yale University, Harvard Business School and others. Forcing oneself to be happy and cheerful all the time is the equivalent of eating only pie, cake, and ice cream or just steak, pork chops, and tuna. It’s unhealthy. We need balance in our lives, emotionally and physically.
Yes, you can get too much of a good thing, even gratitude. Robert Emmons, talks about “gratitude fatigue” in his book Gratitude Works! I agree that keeping a daily gratitude journal or writing a note of thanks every single day can become boring and worse, insincere.
In a study, researchers studied participant’s inclination for positive and negative emotions under different circumstances. They coined the concept “emodiversity,” measuring the various emotions and their frequency. They learned that being emotionally diverse results in a healthier life. But, increasing feelings of gratitude, living gratefully, also improves your health and happiness. So why the focus on gratitude? Because many are inclined to see the negative before the positive, what’s wrong rather than what’s right. If you are curious about where you score on the emotional diversity (emodiversity) scale, you can take the test at Emodiversity.org.
Balance is the goal.
Balance leads to better health and a happier life. Allow yourself to experience sadness, anger, grief, and other emotions referred to as “negative”. They are real and they have a place in the grand scheme.
At the same time, let laughter, joy, and humor occupy the same space. Shortly after Bob’s death, I talked with my sister. Tears mingled with laughter as we remembered fun times with our kids, the silly things that happened, and the memories that will always be ours. My sister is strong and resilient. She is no stranger to adversity. And this is good. Through these experiences she has gained courage, wisdom, and strength that will see her through the days ahead.
Some psychologist believe that times of sadness improve our memory, judgement, motivations, and, in some cases, our interactions. They also agree that it’s not a place one should inhabit for long periods of time. Sadness, grief, even anger are places to visit at certain times but not to dwell.
Broken bones are an inconvenience. Have my plans changed for the next several weeks? Absolutely! However, there are many things I can do and learn during this time. Greater empathy for others. Patience. An ever- increasing appreciation for my husband and the many friends and family who are helping me through the process. How to take life at a slower pace. I’m grateful that it’s my left foot which allows me to drive. It’s good that this happened while the weather is warm, allowing me to sit outdoors as I write, research, and read. I’m counting the days until freedom, when I can hike, kayak, and get my own cup of coffee! After six weeks on crutches, I will savor every activity with greater appreciation.
How grateful I am that no children were seriously injured in the accident. Why did it happen? I don’t know. However, now we know how my granddaughter reacts during a crisis. And she knows how to withstand a crisis moment.
Unplanned and No Control
When things occur that are unplanned and out of our control, whether it’s a 12-year old experiencing an out-of-control bus, the loss of a loved one, or a physical injury, it’s healthy and natural to experience a lack of cheery happiness.
As I said last week, motivation can be challenging and elusive at times. And that’s okay. We need to allow ourselves space to process our grief, sadness, anger, fear, or other feelings. Visit these emotions as often as needed but please don’t stay there.
Each day brings the opportunity to discover the power of gratitude. It is our choice to put it into action. Gratitude for the happy and the sad moments, the planned and unexpected. Mixed emotions have a place in our lives. They help us find meaning as we strive to achieve balance.
LaDonna Greiner is a writer, photographer, and life-long student of gratitude. Her book series, 21 Reasons to Say Thank You, offers real-life examples and suggestions to help you discover the power of gratitude and act on it. She is a Certified Facilitator for Appreciation at Work and a frequent speaker who coaches audiences on how to live a more fulfilling life through gratitude and appreciation. You can reach her at [email protected]