Column: Gratefulness is the antidote to stress in our lives
–There is so much stress in our lives.
Stress makes life a lot more difficult. And stress is so contagious. Stress contributes to mean-spirited vitriol and elevated negativity – comments that include name-calling insults on multiple social media platforms, ‘news’ that is really opinion and delivered as a shout, arguments, and even physical fighting over differing opinions – are just a few examples.
In my youthful righteousness I would argue or perhaps call for calm and then be frustrated when nothing much changed. After years and much practice focusing on the first line of the serenity prayer, I am learning to focus on things I can control. I choose to practice gratitude. And somehow; amidst all the anger, fear and snarling; this helps me find joy.
I savor each blessing. There are so many, once I shift my focus to notice and name them. The searchlight glow of the full moon. The smell of the grape stems and skins after crush that permeates the air. The autumn palette blanketing all the vineyards. The refreshing breeze most afternoons that begins the cooling off of the day. The driver that pauses so I can merge into traffic. The shopkeeper who shares an honest answer when I ask how their day is going. The shy smile of a young child peeping over their caregiver’s shoulder standing in front of me in line. The first bite of something when I am truly hungry. How delicious water is when I am thirsty.
As I notice each of these blessings during my day, I am grateful and consciously savor it. You can try it. No cost. No equipment is needed. No scorecard. Think of one blessing no matter how small. How does your mind and body react? Make it a routine practice and see what it changes for you.
I also strive to be more compassionate. First with myself – just like the oxygen mask on the airplane. I push to take that first step.I avoid the trap of waiting for perfection. I acknowledge effort even if the result is not what was expected. And I keep trying!
This leads me to more compassion with others.
There are so many stress factors in each person’s everyday life. I never truly know what another’s experience has been. When I have the chance to ask, I more often than not find that it had nothing to do with me.
So now, even when I will never know for sure, I assume the other person has a lot on their mind and I let them go ahead or have the last cookie or smile when there is eye contact. I remind myself not to take it personally and use my manners to grease the wheels of social interaction.
When I get home I notice I am less stressed and happier. I am grateful.
It becomes a self-sustaining cycle. An antidote to stress. At my fingertips all the time.
Please, join me. I am grateful.
Columnist Laura Parker is a retired public educator, mother, and grandmother. She was recently a candidate for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees. She’s been a part-time resident of Paso Robles since 2007 and a full-time resident since 2016.