The Secret to Creating Change in Your Life
The calendar says it’s September. Daydreams of cooler temperatures and long walks in your new boots as you sip a pumpkin spice latte drift through your mind. Meanwhile, you are sweating because even though the calendar may tell you it’s fall, it still feels like summer here in the South. Many of us wish for crisp, cool air instead of having to huddle in air conditioning. We long for a different season, for summer to give way to fall. We long for change.
This longing for seasonal change also plays out in our lives. Sometimes we long for life change, to move out of a difficult season because it feels like the season just keeps going on and on with no hope of variation. You feel miserable, bored, and exhausted every single day. Isn’t there supposed to be more than this? Whether it’s a lonely and disconnected marriage or a job that doesn’t inspire you, you feel stuck. You want to feel purpose and meaning, but all you feel is passionless and mundane.
What happens when you want to end one season and begin another? Can you create transitions to speed up or escape certain seasons of your life? No one can change the weather, but I believe we can control the seasons of our lives by:
1. PRACTICING GRATITUDE: The simplest, fastest, and best way to change the “temperature” you’re experiencing emotionally, relationally, spiritually, etc. is to practice gratitude. Gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. Gratitude allows us to recognize and better yet, experience, the good things in our lives. When you’re experiencing frustrations, setbacks, and disappointments, your perspective changes if you aren't careful. Instead of seeing the good in others (and yourself), you begin to focus on the negative. Pretty soon, you don’t wait for seasons to change— instead, you may prematurely end a season.
Here are some ways to practice gratitude:
Focus on what you do have versus all that you don’t have.
State a positive attribute about yourself and others. This again is going to change your brain chemistry and release serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter.
Be honest about the hardships and disappointments, but then thank God for the good things that are present in your life.
2. SERVING OTHERS: When you serve others, you stop looking at yourself and begin to open your mind and heart to the experiences of others. And doing things for others does a lot for yourself. Volunteering increases your relationship and social skills by providing a space to practice and develop these skills. But relationships aren’t the only things that benefit from serving others; your mental state also improves through giving back. Volunteering has been proven to help ward off and decrease depression. It can also decrease anxiety and stress. Clients often come to counseling because they feel negative about themselves. Self-esteem can take a nosedive after a disappointment or loss, and individuals often begin to question themselves and their ability to make decisions. But as you practice new skills through volunteering, you begin to feel better about yourself.
Here are some ways to volunteer:
Check with your church or a local organization.
Serve others within your community.
3. PRAYING AND TRUSTING: As Christians, we know this is what we “should” do. But praying and trusting in God when the situation doesn’t change is hard. Even still, we are instructed to pray and trust. This isn’t for God’s benefit, but for ours. I’ve learned through long stretches of hardships that it’s only through prayer and trust that I will survive. I believe that as I put my trust in God (and sometimes this is a moment-by-moment choice) and talk to him through prayer, my anxieties and frustrations melt away. The hard circumstances haven’t gone away, but I begin to feel peace and joy.
Here are some ways to pray:
Create space to process your feelings. This can be talking a walk or listening to worship music.
Foster a heart of prayer by surrounding yourself with truth. This can include listening to worship music, sermons, podcasts, and even checking out social media channels like Proverbs 31.
Start a prayer journal. This is my favorite way to pray. It’s so easy to get distracted when I pray. Prayer journaling helps me turn concerns into prayers. It helps me to get my fears out of my head and into God’s hands, and it doesn’t take long. If I don’t know what to pray, I’ll write down verses and pray through those verses in a personal way, adding my concerns or requests.
Your seasonal situation may not change. But the way you experience these challenges certainly can. You likely won’t be able to change the circumstances themselves, but I believe you can alter the seasons of your life as you shift your perspective and practice new habits.
Blessings to you and believing for “cooler” weather in your life,