Have you ever stopped to look at what you have and be grateful for it?
I know, I said it myself: Yeah, right. You have no idea what I’m living through.
I remember being asked this question some years ago, and answering exactly those words (in my head.) But my friend said one more thing.
Nothing will be right until you have gratitude first.
Life is not what you have; it’s what you make of it. It has taken me a few years to wrap my head around this. But we must grasp it, as well as why it is important.
Nothing has changed in the years since I came across the idea, except me. I have heard the voices speaking into me, which taught me to look for ways to bless my family when all I saw was a sink full of dirty dishes, or to speak life into another when it only looked like an argument in my face.
Stress from family discord, business setbacks, or health challenges causes its own drag on your health. Stress triggers cortisol in your system, which sets your nervous system on edge to fight the battles and slay the dragons around you. While the stressor looms, even if only in your mind as you rehearse the wrongs of the day, digestion is turned off and your heart pumps harder to maintain readiness at all battlestations. Sleep is not rejuvenating. Tomorrow seems worse because today never went away.
You must choose your response. Will you allow the dragons to slay you, or will you be the victor today? When the car on the freeway cuts you off, do you downshift to road rage mode and begin shouting and waving your hands at the driver? Or do you just kindly give them some space – and thus avoid becoming an accident statistic? When your loved one mouths off at you – do you stop, ask thoughtful questions, and listen attentively? Do you try to see the big picture of history and be part of the main storyline, and not just a side distraction along the way?
It’s not always easy. I get it. But it’s hugely gratifying, at the end of the day, to look back and see all the ways you acted on your intentions instead of on your reflexes. All the ways you were part of the solution instead of the escalation of the problem. All the ways you chose to not let cortisol race through your system and ravage you unnecessarily. And the moment you take to reflect on solid conversations, on intentional peacemaking efforts, on purposeful edification of another – is very positive for your personal health.
When cortisol stays in storage instead of coursing through your veins, the parasympathetic nervous system is allowed to handle things appropriately. Blood flows freely through your mind for creative pursuits and all organs function efficiently. Your body maintains standard operating procedure, where life is calm and sleep is restful.
This is the key to longer life. Balance in your nervous system is the why behind the “Breathe and count to 10” advice we often hear. Deep, slow breathing counteracts tension. Constant stressors, coupled with our own propensity to resentment when things don’t go our way, will drive us into the grave. Anger and bitterness, driven by cortisol, produce an acidic environment in our bodies that actually eats away at our insides over time. We must learn to manage the hostile world we live in, within and without.
Two things are necessary to break the cycle of stress and frustration:
- Confess that you are not strong enough to control the world on your own. Sometimes, like a child trying to move a boulder has not used everything at his disposal until he finds somebody bigger than him to help, we need a competent friend. The ravages of this world are infinite – only the eternal God is big enough to provide what you need to stand well. Ask for help from the only One who truly can make things right.
- Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are alkaline, and will balance the acids in your system to help bring about stability. Digestion will improve and constipation will clear as weakened organs are strengthened. This will, in turn, clear your mind to see things more creatively and look for wise solutions to problems instead of stagnating in the circumstances.
Stop and look around you. You have so much more than most people in this world. Even our problems would be blessings in the eyes of the person who’s lost everything but life itself. Change your perspective and watch your physical health improve.