Step by step

The living room was warm. The crackling of the burning log could be heard and the smell of Sunday Roast could be smelt. Chaska, a ten-year-old German Short-haired Pointer bared his teeth at the younger five-month-old German Wire-haired Pointer, Nika, as she took his favourite toy away. He lunged at her, snarling as she turned her tail and ran. Chaska did not give chase, dropped his head down as he turned around and slunk back to his bed. He then grabbed his meaty bone treat and started gnawing on it. His expression softened and you could almost see that he was grateful for his treat, slowly letting go of the loss of his toy to his nefarious new housemate.

After a few minutes of gnawing, he got up and started to do zoomies around the dining area, barking excitedly. He then rolled on his back, exposing his belly, beckoning his guardian to come to play and tickle him. He looked like he was experiencing joy, enjoying life. His guardian observed his full transformation from indignance, rage, gratitude and finally, joy. He got from anger to joy step by step.

Our emotions are not dissimilar and can be likened to steps as well. When you are angry, it is not helpful for others to say, “Why are you angry? Be happy instead.” The jump from anger to joy is too great. It may be more helpful and easier to shift from anger to gratitude. To be able to catch ourselves when we are angry to be aware that we are angry and practise gratitude first. In almost any situation that made you angry, there lies something to be grateful for. If it is someone close (family or friends) who has angered you, be grateful that someone is in your life. Usually, your degree of anger corresponds directly to how much that person means to you. This is why close friends and family can drive you nuts doing something that when a stranger does it, you may not even care!

If it is a situation that has angered you, like losing a job, not getting the house you want, someone driving recklessly around you, you can also strive to look for the lesson that will help you grow. This is not referring to not expressing anger. Not at all. It is only human (and vital) to express your feelings. It is more of in your journey to be happy, it is easier to convert the feelings of anger to gratitude rather than jumping straight into joy. In those situations out of your control, remember that the only thing you can control is you. After allowing your feelings to naturally take place (feeling sad, angry, despair, annoyed, etc), you can start to regain control of your thoughts, focus, physiology and emotions. Seek initially for gratitude instead of joy. The transition is easier. Practising gratitude regularly would greatly help this process.

Sometimes, it can be very difficult to find gratitude in situations. It does require a bit of creativity and a lot of going back to the basics. At times, it could be simple as being grateful that you are alive to feel anger (or any other negative feelings) in the first place. After all, it is grace that allows our vibrant heart to continue beating. You and I did not do anything to deserve that! It is just the magic of life, nature being automatic. If you ever run out of things to be grateful for, this is a clear and obvious one.

After expressing, embracing and embellishing gratitude, it would naturally place you in an improved state of mind and emotion. (It is really hard to feel angry and grateful at the same time!) In this improved state, it is easier to move on to joy. At this point, you would have appreciated and are grateful for the person or situation that has caused your anger and be in a better position to explore how joyful this person or the situation could be.

Learning that small steps are crucial to allow you to move away from extreme negative feelings like despair, anger, and sorrow can give you hope to get unstuck. Practising these small steps will enable you to live a joyful life in all situations like you certainly deserve to. Having a positive mindset may be helpful in seeing things in a positive light. However, being extremely good at gratitude (by continued practice!) is essential for living, especially navigating yourself during difficult times. After gratitude will naturally come positivity and joy. A suggestion would be to develop your appetite for gratitude instead of a positive mindset. You may find it easier and more crucial to attaining the former.

Chaska was able to move from anger to joy in several small steps. What steps do you take to move away from extreme negative feelings?

‘It is better to take many steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.’ – Louis Sachar

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