When I say “I’ve been there” trust me. I’ve been there. I don’t use that phrase lightly. For me one of my lowest low points (and there have been a few) was when I was about to sell my bed and my sofa in order to pay my bills. I had already sold the majority of my stuff that was worth anything; jewellery, clothes, shoes. I had exhausted all my credit cards, had taken out a whopping great loan which had all gone, and I had sold my beautiful little convertible for a £300 old banger.
I figured – hey, I can sit/sleep on the floor, I can still get from A-B and it’ll get me through this month. In that weirdly positive sounding moment I had the horrible realisation that I genuinely had no worries about what I would do the following month as I had accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be here the following month. I was in the midst of my abusive relationship, I had no job, wasn’t allowed to get a new job (although I was offered a job at a local pub, he quickly told me that ‘sluts work behind bars’ and that I was absolutely not allowed to work there while he was around). I felt entirely hopeless and isolated but little did I know things actually could get worse.
Now unfortunately that is not the end of that part of my story, but it was absolutely the clarity I needed to start my battle to get away from him, and save myself.
During one of his stints in prison I had started gratitude journalling as a part of that after somebody recommended it to me. It felt so stupid and silly, but I really felt it start to change something in me. After my moment of clarity I remembered my little gratitude notebook, I pulled it out, and I started again.
Of course I kept it secret from him for my own safety but slowly, very slowly, a shift started in my mind. I picked up from where I had abruptly ended the habit before.
And it was SO. SIMPLE.
Each night before bed, or first thing in the morning if I had forgotten, I wrote a list of 10 things I was grateful for. The power of gratitude is something I thought was just a gimmick, but it is incredible how much difference it can make.
Sometimes I couldn’t think of anything so I just listed things that I liked (pizza) or things that made me happy (pizza). I can always express gratitude for pizza.
At first it feels stupid. I was desperately scanning my day and all I could think of were the shit things that had happened. I had to work really hard to think of things every day at first. But after a week of doing this each night it suddenly became quite.. fun! I found myself spotting things during the day that I made a mental note of for my list. I found some days I had too many things to put on there. But I just kept going, if I had more than 10 I wrote more than 10. The more gratitude you express the more of those positive things will be drawn to you – I promise.
Don’t get me wrong I still had bad days, but on those days I went back to the beginning of just listing things I liked/loved.
Soon enough I actually felt different in myself. Some days I would re-read older lists and see the progress I was making and it felt exciting and it felt like I was taking charge. It’s amazing what your mind will come up with when you force it to think differently.
And there’s some science behind this for those who are interested:
There’s this wonderful little thing called Confirmation Bias, which is effectively your mind and your ego’s way of making sure that it’s always proved right. On a fundamental level our ego, in the Freudian sense, is fixed on survival. It’s fiercely protective of itself which certainly has it’s pros but also many, many cons (hello anxiety!).
Let’s say your mind stumbles upon a theory that it already has a decent amount of evidence to support:
“Everyone hates me and only bad things happen to me”
Generally if you have enough evidence to support this your ego will accept this as a confirmed truth. It will then go out of it’s way to hunt for evidence to continue to support this theory in order to not be proved wrong.
So every time something bad happens, someone looks at you wrong or says something unpleasant be it small or huge, it’ll store that away in it’s little filing system as evidence. But there’s only so much room for these files and it’ll start to push out anything that’s not feeding it’s theory.
If you suddenly start retraining your brain to think differently it can’t help but take notice. The positive files will start building up. Fuck, they’ll start overflowing eventually if you let them. But you HAVE TO FORCE IT. It won’t be easy at first, but it will get easier. And trust me, it works.
Clearly this is one of many steps that I went through to help me with my recovery and my fight to leave my abuser, but it absolutely was a vital one and something I even do now if I’m having a bad few days for a bad month.
Give it a try… and let me know if it works for you!