In 2010, I was chosen as a translator by the Embassy of Israel to work on a messy deportation case. My role was to partner with a local translator to complete the documentation process in Hebrew and English and represent the candidate at the Embassy of India in Israel in order to secure Indian citizenship after hours of grueling interrogations and red-tapism.
This assignment came with its share of joys and harrowing circumstances. From enjoying the beaches of Tel Aviv, relishing the cuisine to taking a 2-hour solo ride back to the airport in the middle of the night with no soul on the streets and finally, a near escape from a Palestinian bomb attack. These incidents taught me the value of life and how near-death experiences can transform the way we perceive life in the aftermath.
A close brush with the devastating incident deepened my belief in the Power of Gratitude. I have learned from my personal experiences especially solo travels around the world that you cannot live with fear and gratitude at the same time. The two are energetically contrasting.
The thought of travelling to Israel initially gave me goose-bumps, however, the ethereal beauty and the cultural landscape captured my imagination. Beautiful streets, divine cuisine, friendly locales, and a vibrant cultural scene left a positive impression. Little did I know there was more to this quiet beauty; like I sensed a calm before the storm.
Developing gratitude does not alter our circumstances but it does shift our perspective. Fear doesn’t go away but practicing gratitude helps manage fears.
Despite leaving the Israel airbase, I was trembling and wondered, what if this wasn’t a close brush and I were destined for a short life. Many other fears hovered in front of my eyes. My heart was palpitating more than ever.
But did that stop me from creating more experiences? Not really! My first ever solo travel to Israel opened my mind to more bespoke experiences.
There are 5 ways I have learned how gratitude helps overcome fear.
It keeps you hopeful despite the odds
One of the positive side effects that have come from consistently practicing gratitude is that it keeps me hopeful despite the odds. One unfortunate incident did not influence me to ban solo travel. I chose to travel more, conquer my fears especially when I am by myself, and continue to create beautiful impressions.
Hope can be a difficult thing to hold onto especially when you feel everything is going wrong. The coronavirus pandemic has proved this in 2020. When nothing seems to go well, it is easy for us to despair and settle into discomfort and anxiety. Gratitude helps keep that discomfort away.
Gratitude makes room for hope despite the odds and shifts your focus.
The story of fear goes quiet
Fear always comes with a story. It might be a story of endless predictions of things that might go wrong if you move forward. Or it might be about a challenging past that you’ve still not moved on from and when you face a similar situation again, it stops you in your tracks. It can also be about what people will think about you and your decisions. Fear is always about creating worse case scenarios peppered with people’s perceptions.
Gratitude helps quiet that story down. It allows you to look at “what is” instead of “what might be”. It helps you stay in the present and keep baseless predictions at bay.
It keeps you grounded
Being grounded means you are consciously checking into your surroundings. Through a healthy amount of self-awareness, you are mindful about your present and not living in the past and worrying about the future.
Our thoughts and emotions are all over the place when we live in fear. Gratitude creates a possibility for all these feelings to come together and land inside you peacefully. It allows you to feel centered and become thoughtful about your responses to surroundings.
It opens you up for healing
When we are in fear, notice that you might either not want to be around people or crave familiar faces. Most of us prefer to be tucked away in our shell than reach out to others for help. When fear shows up, most of us give into it and build walls around us.
In contrast, when you actively practice gratitude, you will feel yourself open up for healing. When you become more trusting in your ability to do what is within your reach, even the difficult things in life become bearable.
Gratitude pulls you out of your self-imposed bubble and allows you to experience the simple pleasures of life like being able to wake up each day, a walk in the park, playing with children, spending time with the elderly, appreciating the gift of a day job that pays the bills.
It eases stress
Our physiological response to fear is often an elevated heart and breathing rate. This is triggered when the fear in your mind is real (a grave situation that endangers life), or rhetoric (based on the stories you tell yourself).
Gratitude helps ease stress responses because it anchors you. I have had countless situations where the simple act of being in the moment and expressing gratitude has pulled me out of the fight or flight state. Gratitude is a natural stress reliever.
How to practice gratitude?
Writing down a few things (pen to paper as opposed to fingers to keyboard) that you are grateful for is the easiest ways to reduce stress, anxiety and centre yourself.
The Gratitude Diary
Maintain a journal. At the end of each day before you go to bed, spend 10 minutes to write down:
- 3 things that went well today
- Why did it go well?
- How did you feel about it?
Make it a ritual
Gratitude is the only antidote to fear. We all know what it is like to give into fear. It only makes sense to create rituals that help us overcome our fears. Practicing gratitude needs to be done intentionally. It is an act of valuing your existence and making it more balanced and meaningful regardless of external events.
Gratitude has helped me a thousandfold to survive the pandemic and some unwelcome travel adventures. Fears still exist but it is only necessary to find a middle route to balance it.
Fear is a part of me and so is gratitude!