Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cultivating Positivity in a World of Negativity: Gratitude with a Family Touch

Much of the constant media and professional landscape breeds and even advertises negativity. Some news outlets thrive on bad news, rather than celebrating inspirational stories and triumphs. Politics is a prime illustration of dim-witted criticism and unproductive messages of deprecation. This continual barraging of never-ending cynicism can take a toll on viewers. Therefore, a cure can prevail amidst these virulent chains of antagonistic prejudice and discourteousness. The answer for opposition to these forces incorporates a formidable antidote – the constant practice of gratitude.

The Authority of Positivity:

The idea of happiness is fleeting when one experiences strong emotions, which sometimes include both positive and negative feelings. At the peak of a mountain, one naturally feels exuberant about life. In the valley, one naturally feels deprived of joy and pleasantness. As human beings, the ups and downs of memorable experiences come to us all. Positivity is a mindset that drives the transformation of heart and will. If proactive through an intentional commendatory mindset, mental health thrives. Professional work, even if just to pay bills, seems less daunting and perhaps even less boring.

Recently, the burdens of life have felt somewhat draining for me. I realized these negative feelings emerging. So, I decided to take a break. On what could have been a busy day of tasks accomplished (being busy to feel good about being busy), I ventured to Corryton, Tennessee. This town is about thirty minutes from Knoxville, which is where my family and I currently live. I ate breakfast at a local establishment called The Backwoods Restaurant. In this small edifice, there were four tables and a window heater built into the wall. However, the meal and the price were excellent! Like the title, in the middle of the country, it was a backwoods experience.

After breakfast, I took a hike to the summit of House Mountain, a natural preserve that stands as the highest point in Knox County. I must admit the five-mile hike was rather difficult, but the views were breathtaking. More specifically, the one-mile trek up the mountain to reach the peak was very strenuous. I kept wondering when I might see flatter trails to catch my breath. The uphill climb finally plateaued into another trail that spanned about two miles on the top of the mountain. There were vistas all around from atop the plateau trail, making this part of the hike worth the rigor to reach the peak. Without my usual checklist in front of me, I felt some clarity being able to sit in the natural silence, admiring these views. On a few occasions during my trek, I took about ten minutes to sit down, be still, and rest my mind.  

Amidst a chaotic routine, it was refreshing to take this much-needed midday break without having to stare at a screen. Unlike some, binge-watching Netflix or another television program does not always feel relaxing to me. Clearing my head in nature provides a momentary release. I prayed, exercised, and summited a mountain in the half-day spent in Corryton.     

These breaks and moments of thankfulness function as anchors to a positive mentality. I would encourage you to take a break and refresh if it has been a while since you did so.

The Role of Family in Positivity:  

My wife, Lisa, and my children, Annabelle and Jace, serve as my pillars of support, especially on hard days. Plus, if I focus my attention on my family or someone else, acts of affirmation for the sake of enhancing another person’s life empower positivity. My family’s presence, love, and shared experiences fill my heart in ways the surrounding world cannot.

For instance, for a full day, Lisa and I recently took the kids to Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. For lunch, we ate pizza at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company. Of course, a couple of beers or ciders, whichever you prefer, certainly seem to mellow any rising stressors about life’s many responsibilities. The restaurant was a vibrant environment that welcomed families with young children. After our delicious lunch cuisine, we took the kids to a medium-sized flea market to shop for some inexpensive toys (something small for the kids to enjoy).

Jace acquired a white teddy bear with a Coca-Cola theme and apparel. Annabelle picked some inexpensive squishy animals and slime that lasted about a day before being thrown away. It was these simple pleasures that made the day enjoyable. After our flea market excursion, we hiked two miles at Seven Islands State Birding Park. There is a rather long bridge in the park that leads to some short trails on an island in the middle of the French Broad River. The mountains and sunset shined in the background of spectacular scenery and cool weather. I am still savoring the contentment of these hours spent together. Annabelle and Jace thoroughly enjoy running through nature parks of this kind. They seem to savor any activity that involves the outdoors.

Visiting Sevierville and the surrounding sites was an intentional act to do something we enjoy together. Nature again provided an outlet away from computer work, tablet apps, phone calls, and watching Paw Patrol (Annabelle’s favorite show) on the television. Again, appreciation for the still moments in nature with family becomes touchpoints for experienced and expressed gratitude.  

A New Gratitude Ritual:

Lisa and I have placed a plastic jar near the kitchen table with small pieces of paper. Sporadically, we will write reminders of blessings and sources of gratitude on these slips of paper. Six months down the road, we will read and review these reminders of good moments as a family together. This simple idea reinforces the good things in our shared lives. It takes attention away from the negative to thrive in thoughts of positive things. In my internal process of thinking, thoughts of consistent positivity often lead to more thoughts of consistent positivity. Thus, my mood feels elevated in a healthy mindset with an intentional focus on evident blessings, rather than what sometimes feels like daily burdens.

Word of Caution in A Call of Action:

I would caution you to be mindful of the people you are around and the media outlets you watch. Sometimes, negative messaging only represents senseless topics for the sake of ratings and maybe even shaming people to feel bad for no necessary reason.

(This is a picture of the Backwoods Restaurant in Corryton, Tennessee.)

(This picture is inside the Backwoods Restaurant.)

(House Mountain provides some brilliant vistas of the surrounding mountains and countryside.)

(At Seven Islands State Birding Park, the kids marveled at the width of the French Broad River while crossing the bridge.) 

(During our hiking portion of the trek at Seven Islands, I carried Jace in what Annabelle calls "the elephant carrier.")

(The sunset gleamed on the French Broad River at Seven Islands.)

(Jace enjoys the ride of someone carrying him through the state park.)

(Annabelle snuggles close to Mommy in a photo op as the night air gets cooler.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family # gratitude #positivity #nature #hiking #mountains #timeinnature #adventures #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #goodness #faith #legacy #travel #JamesCartee #JamesLCarteeIII

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