Taking the Journey from Chaos to Gratitude

open armed woman in wilderness standing on rock with blue sky

At some point in our lives all of us experience chaos and gratitude. One brings a sense of confusion and anxiety, and the other calm and happiness. In this blog you’ll learn how to better understand chaos, and how to channel it into a feeling of gratitude

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Chaos ensues during stressful situations like life changes, the taking on of new adventures, or when unpredictable experiences impact our lives. Chaos brings a feeling of being out of control and anxiety, and it can often stop us in our tracks as we try to adjust.

Gratitude comes to us in those quieter moments, when we reflect on all that life has given us. Feeling grateful can be awe-inspiring; it brings warmth to our hearts and smiles to our faces. Gratitude brings us joy, peace and a sense of calm after a storm of chaos.

Chaos can be defined as a state of utter confusion or disorder; a lack of organization and continuity. It can bring disarray, turmoil, and a sense of unease. Life events that introduce chaos including starting a new job, or moving into a new home; bringing a baby into the world, or packing our children off to college. A sense of chaos can strike at the oddest times, for instance, when overwhelmed by learning a new skill at work – or when opening the door to that messy closet at home. These events can bring challenges but also opportunities to learn and grow.

Think back to the meaningful changes in your life. Did you experience chaos while you were making your way through those? Would these positive changes have happened without first experiencing a sense of chaos? Philosophers, scientists, and sociologists all agree that without a measure of chaos we may not make the changes we need to transition through life. Change is a chaotic experience. It is seen as nature’s way of shaking things up so that we can move forward and evolve. Since chaos is unavoidable, opportunities lie in how we go about embracing it.

two hands passing a flower off to one another

Gratitude is having a sense of being thankful, a readiness to show appreciation, and an ability to return kindnesses. Studies have shown that feeling grateful brings us a sense of calm, optimism, resilience, and a firm belief that life is good. Joy and happiness is brought into our lives by reaching a state of gratitude for what we have, what we give to others and for who we are as people.

In our competitive world it is easy to believe that what will give us a sense of wellness is always just around the corner – and it’s always a thing: a new car or new outfit, a new this or a new that. Our homes are filled with things that gave us a short term burst of feeling fulfilled. We treasure some of the items for a lifetime, but many lose their luster quickly. That new car smell only lasts so long! Some sociologists believe that our need to buy new things is our way of seeking long-lasting fulfillment, but the newness wears off and the cycle begins again. Long-lasting fulfillment comes from positive experiences, such as the feelings associated with an “attitude of gratitude.”

Feeling grateful does not come easy. It is not based on what we have or do not have, so it can’t be ordered on Amazon. Extremely wealthy people, who seemingly have everything they want, do not always live the fulfilling lives they seek. Oprah Winfrey, for example, practices gratitude by writing in a daily journal about a specific experience she had that she found gratifying.

Conversely, we have all known people that have very little but are able to live enriched and meaningful lives. Mother Teresa is a wonderful example of gratefulness in a life of very few possessions. Experiences, not things, bring us to a state of gratefulness. A wonderful quote by “Seeds of Greatness” author Denis Waitley sums up this experience:

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

Feeling grateful, at its best, is a shared experience. Once we feel grateful, we can easily share that amazing feeling with others, and one of the best ways to do this is to donate. Your donations of gently used clothing and household items benefit the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and the VVA is very grateful to you for your generous giving. The items that once gave you joy can in turn give joy to others in your community.

Sometimes something as simple as an overstuffed closet can lead to feelings associated with chaos. When we dare to look into our storage spaces, staring us in the face is clutter, disorganization, and disarray. The very essence of chaos!

Perhaps it is time to find a way to be grateful for our chaos and learn how to turn it into the energy we need to move forward.

There is no better way to start your journey to gratefulness than by opening your closets, drawers, and garages and conquering the chaos they contain. In between the items you want to keep are items you can happily donate to a worthy cause, such as the VVA. If we look past the chaos we will see clothing, household items, toys, and appliances that at this moment add clutter to our lives but could soon add joy to someone else. Now is the time to dive in and start the process of alleviating your chaos and gaining your “attitude of gratitude.”

very messy desk full of clutter

Take some time and practice these steps to lessen the chaos and move forward to feeling grateful. Remember, practice does not make perfect, but it does make better and better. Today is the day to start:

  • Breathe. Take a few deep breaths, long enough for the feeling of being overwhelmed by the chaos to ease. Close your eyes if needed. Continue until you feel a sense of calm replacing anxiousness.
  • Look. Open your eyes. Take time to look at what you have accomplished in your life, the phases you have been through, the items that you have held on to that mark events and people that you treasure.
  • Smile. Instead of seeing an overstuffed closet, remember the happiness you felt when you acquired what you now have. Smile at the memories and life phases each item brings you. Take pride in your accomplishments. Take pride in your chaotic piles!
  • Begin. As Stephen Covey reminds us in his best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: “begin with the end in mind.” In this case, think of the end as being the feeling of calm and gratitude that you seek. Instead of feeling uneasy and overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, feel empowered.
  • Choose. Now, each item embodies a sense of gratitude, whether you keep it or donate it. Say to yourself, “I am so grateful to be able to keep you in my life” or “I am so grateful to be able to give you to someone who will appreciate you like I did.” Either choice will lessen chaos and increase gratitude!
  • Enjoy. Chaotic experiences can be fun! Practicing gratitude will make transitioning through chaos a joyful experience. As your storage areas begin to look organized and your donate boxes grow, your feeling of gratefulness will multiply.
  • Reflect. After you have conquered your chaotic storage areas, take a moment to reflect on your awesome efforts. What you keep will bring you happiness and your donations will give you the feeling of gratefulness. Both will enrich your life. Take a look around at your accomplishments, for yourself and for others.

Ready to turn your chaos into a practice in gratitude? Open up to a wonderful opportunity that will not only improve your life but also the lives of others!