Creative Mindfulness is a new series I am testing out where I take topics around mindfulness and discuss their influence on our lives, travel, and creativity. I am not an expert, but rather using this space to explore ideas that have been brewing in my mind and influencing my work. If you would like to write a piece for this series I am looking for guest posts. Send an email to wanderinghelene@gmail.com

Gratitude and Negative Thoughts

gratitude /ˈɡratɪtjuːd/ (noun)
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Such a simple concept but something so easily forgotten. I don’t want to discuss gratitude towards others today, but rather towards ourselves. How is this relevant to this blog? to travel? to mindfulness? It has absolutely everything to do with every aspect of your life. Having gratitude can put life into perspective, bring you to the present, and recognize your own accomplishments.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, my anxiety has been a bit intense. When it gets like this I can be in my head,  grinding myself to dust. Hopefully, you don’t know those negative voices that slowly chip away, they aren’t very kind. I started doing something new in this situation. I try to take a step back, and literally imagine myself outside of myself, try to view things from an objective stance, without the negative thoughts. I try to see what I have accomplished, what I have good in my life, and the list grows and grows. It is so easy to take the basics for granted (food, home, water, family, work, security).

I try to examine what exactly my anxiety is doing, what am I telling myself? Often times, it is me being my own worst enemy, typical. I hear that voice telling me I am not working hard enough, no one cares what I have to say, why even bother, etc. (you have no idea how many articles I have written and never hit publish)

It is easy to be hard on myself when I can’t see progress in the moment. This is also the worst way to measure progress.

Practicing Gratitude Towards Ourselves

For some perspective, lately, I have been hard on myself about my language learning progress with Slovene. “I know I can do better” is the thought repeating in my mind, telling me I didn’t practice enough or dedicate enough time, same negative thoughts eating away.

At that moment I try to reflect on the reality, not my reality. I think back to one year ago, how was my language level? Okay yeah, I can see some progress there. How about two years ago? Damn. Yeah, I went from absolutely no knowledge to where I am now in two years. Maybe I am not fluent or the best, but I am able to use an entirely new language in my day to day life. When I took that step back, I stopped judging myself within the moment but examined all of the progress I have made. It can be really life-altering to change your scope.

Suddenly I see the progress, suddenly I am full of gratitude for the experiences I have had that got me where I am, rather than those nagging thoughts. I have gratitude for meeting my partner, for living in a beautiful country like Slovenia, for having the time and resources to dedicate to learning a new language, for having the mental capacity to learn a new language, for having such a supportive teacher, and for having supportive family and friends that helped me along the way. See the shift from anxious negativity to realizing all of the good around? Gratitude is powerful and once you have it for yourself, it bleeds into other aspects of your life.

Nothing just happens overnight or in a few months. Languages take time. Relationships take time. Learning something new takes time. I know it’s always said but there is magic in consistency. Because even if progress is slow and maybe you just dedicate 1 or 2 hours a week, in one year it will be a very different story.

Letting these negative thoughts brew in my mind is not healthy. This is holding me back, building a wall of fear. This wall keeps me from seeing all of the progress. All that I have to be grateful for.

Whenever the dark cloud comes back to bully my thoughts I try to run through the exercise I described above. I even like to imagine I am in a movie, I am the main character, okay so describe myself. How did that character get from point A to point B? (This can be heavy stuff) Somedays it is so powerful and humbling. I’ve been moved to tears. At 32 I’ve seen and done so much more than I could have ever dreamed, my life is incredibly fulfilling. Being mean and angry with myself doesn’t allow me to have gratitude.

Being mindful and present, removing myself from these negative thoughts can quickly ground me. The universe has been kind to me and I want to try and practice more gratitude in my life, more kindness to everyone, but especially myself.

I hope that by sharing my experiences and journey through gratitude might help give some perspective for others. The other day I woke up much earlier than usual and took a walk around my town to take some photos, and gratitude was definitely on my mind. I thought I would share some of the shots, and discuss gratitude’s impact on creativity.

Gratitude and Creativity

I want to clarify that I don’t think that you need to be mindful to be creative, this is just a path that I am choosing to follow. I think being more connected with the moment will allow me to achieve my creative visions.

So gratitude and creativity, how are they relevant? Well, first, having more gratitude will allow me to have less self-doubt and be more open about sharing my work. Secondly, it allows me a new perspective to see and capture the world through photography, video, or writing. If I am present, and recognizing all of the hard work, and all of the moving pieces that had to come together to get not only me, but everything else around me, to that moment, that is a huge dose of gratitude.

I’m curious how this might reflect on my work. I’m not saying that it will, it might make no difference, but that is why this series exists. To explore mindful concepts and try to express them through creative mediums. If you want to participate this week with this challenge tag your photos with #creativemindfulness

These photos explore gratitude in various ways; gratitude for living in such a beautiful place, gratitude for fertile land, gratitude for rain and weather, gratitude for nature, gratitude for the order and chaos of nature, gratitude for the beauty of the world, etc. 

mindfulness and creativity

Thank you so much for reading and following along with the series! If you ever have a concept you would love to see me explore comment below.