Have you ever stood in a field of sunflowers? It’s a rather incredible feeling, isn’t it?
The beautiful flowers stretching up towards the sky, standing tall on stalks that are strong enough to support them.
Large flower heads that are bigger than your hand.
It’s hard to stand among the sunflowers and feel glum, isn’t it? That’s one of the many reasons why sunflowers are my favorite flower. They are always so happy, bright and cheerful. I find that it’s impossible for me to look at a sunflower (any number of them!) for any length of time without feeling my mood improve and my spirits lifting.
But I learned something recently that made me fall in love with sunflowers even more: Sunflowers will literally turn their faces to the sun to soak up all of its rays. And not just in the morning! Their flower faces follow the sun as it makes its arc across the sky. No matter what, the faces of the sunflowers always face the sun!
But what about those cloudy days? What about those days when the sun just can’t be seen? Get this: Sunflowers will turn and face another sunflower! Almost like they are drawing warmth and encouragement from another flower, helping each other until they can once again see the sun.
It got me thinking: Sunflowers were designed perfectly. (And given a very fitting name!)
But it’s more than that: When you step back and take a look, there are some big lessons to be learned from these beautiful sun-facing flowers:
Sunflower Lesson 1 :: Look to the Sun
Sunflowers look to the sun. The flowers depend on the sun for warmth, for heat, for light. They depend on the sun to make their food so they can keep growing. (Hence the ‘photo’ part of ‘photosynthesis.’) Facing the sun is not just a nice thing to do to feel warm and comfortable, it’s the difference between eating and starvation to a sunflower. It’s the difference between standing tall and strong and losing strength and falling over.
The first lesson to be learned from sunflowers is to look to the sun. Well, that begs a question: What is the sun?
What is the sunshine in your life? What things speak peace and rest to your soul? What warms your heart and gets you ready to face another day? Is it your faith? It is your family? Does music inspire you and get you going? What is that driving force in your life that you look to so that you can keep going? Where do you draw your strength from?
Simply determining where your strength comes from is not enough, though. Simply knowing that it’s there won’t do that much good. You need to take it a step further and make a choice to focus on the sunshine in your life.
You see, what you choose to focus on, what you choose to set your mind on determines your focus.
And when you intentionally choose to set your mind on something, your attitude and then your actions will begin to follow that same path.
When you focus on the negative things, you start to get a very depressed, negative, bummed-out view of life.
When you focus on the mediocre things, you start to develop this ‘whatever’ attitude that you just can’t seem to shake yourself out of.
But when you focus on the positive things, that’s when you begin to see positive changes come into your life.
You need to make the choice to intentionally focus on the positive things. Those things that give you strength to face another day and encouragement to keep going. To intentionally set the focus of your heart and your mind on the sun, just like the sunflowers.
So how do you do it? How do you focus on the positive? How do you begin to choose to change your attitude? Here are 3 super simple, yet very intentional ways that you can focus on the positive:
Smile. No, really! Start by simply smiling, Choose to smile. And I’m not talking about one of those half-hearted, try to make your lips curl upwards that comes out looking more like a sneer type of smile. I’m talking about a REAL smile!
If you need something to smile about, try looking out a window. Spot a bird or a butterfly, a spot of color in the leaves of the trees, a patch of blue sky or even the rain splattering against your window. And smile! Make the choice to smile.
Be Grateful. Two very simple words in the English language, but when you put them together they become a huge challenge, don’t they? It’s so much easier to say the words ‘be grateful’ than to actually start being grateful, right? You hear it said all the time, ‘You should be thankful! You should be grateful!’ But what does that really look like? How does that work in everyday life?
Here’s a really easy way to not only be grateful, but to allow that gratefulness, that thankfulness to sink into your heart and soul: Make a list! Now, don’t get scared on me here, I’m not talking about writing a 4000 word essay or anything like that. I’m talking about intentionally writing down 3 things that you’re grateful for. 3 things that you are grateful for right here and right now. It could be your coffee, your view from your window, your comfortable bed, the fact that you’re awake to start a new day, the soft feel of your dog (or cat) nuzzling their head under your hand for a pet.
Don’t overthink this one! Simply pick up something to write with, grab something to write on and write down 3 things. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just start.
And if you’re struggling to get going, here are a few suggestions for you:
- Something you see from your window
- Something you enjoy every morning
- Something you’re looking forward to
- Something that’s always there but you don’t always take the time to notice it
- Something soft
- Someone you appreciate
Be Intentional in How You Start Your Day
Be intentional in how you start you day. So often it feels like the day can take off without you, right? And before you know it, it feels like you’re running at full speed just trying to keep up, let alone attempting to guide where your day is going.
So before your day gets going, before you feel like you’ve been swept up in the never-ending current of another day and lost in the deluge of things that need to happen throughout your day… Take a few moments, preferably first thing in the morning, and start your day with intention. This could be taking some time to meditate or pray. Enjoying an undisturbed cup of coffee (maybe even for 2 minutes!), turning on some music that inspires you and feeds your soul. Journaling. Whatever it looks like for you, take a few minutes just for you.
Now, keep in mind that this will look different for everyone. The demands of life are different for each person in each season of life. You may have an hour every morning where you can spend unhurried time in a morning routine. You may be lucky to have 60 seconds before your infant wakes up and needs your care. You may have any amount of time in between – or more! The amount of time is not the issue here. It’s what you choose to do with the time that makes the difference.
Sunflower Lesson 2 :: Keep Turning to the Sun
One of the most impressive things about sunflowers is that they don’t just start out the day by facing the sun. They don’t just allow the sun to warm them on any spot. Throughout the day, they turn. They were designed to continually shift their faces towards the sun to not only soak up the sun, but to soak up the sun on their face.
Now, it’s common knowledge that the sun does not stay in only one position in our sky. Okay, before I go on, let me clarify that (my children will call me on this statement because we’re studying Astronomy right now!). The sun itself stays put in space, but because the earth rotates, it appears to us, from our perspective on earth, that the sun moves from rising in the east to setting in the west. Is that clear enough? Good!
Here’s the thing that gets me. Because the sun ‘moves’ from our vantage point, the sunflowers have to move! They cannot simply stay in one spot, with their heads facing one direction and be facing the sun all the time. They have to move. They have to pivot. They have to shift. They have to continually adjust to keep their faces towards the sun.
It’s the same things with us. You cannot simply set your focus for 5 minutes in the morning and expect that focus to remain all day long. There are a thousand things competing for your attention: kids, housework, school, preparing meals, work, driving kids around, lessons, other people’s attitudes, other people’s actions, different commitments that you’ve made, projects that you would like to do, that book you want to read… The list goes on. Each and every person in your life will want some of your time, your attention, and your focus. Each and every commitment and responsibility in your life will demand some of your time, your attention and your focus.
Now I’m not saying these things and these people in your life are unimportant. On the contrary, these things, but more importantly, these peoples are your life! They are so important! But what I’m saying is that with all these things competing for you attention, it’s so easy to lose your focus. It’s so easy to turn away from the ‘sun.’ It’s so easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent that you lose that sense of gratefulness and focus and intention that you started your day with.
That’s where the turning comes in. That’s where the pivoting comes in. That’s where you need to make the choice to keep looking toward the ‘sun.’ Keep looking towards your focus. Continually remind yourself of those most important things throughout your day.
Don’t get me wrong, you will get off track! Things will happen that are beyond your control. Circumstances will occur that will knock you off game. People will have attitudes different than yours. Other people’s attitudes will affect your attitude! The question is not whether these life circumstances will hit, the question is, what will you do when they hit? Will you cave to their demands? Or will you choose to look to the sun? To look to your focus again and, when necessary, to refocus on the sun?
But how can you do this? What does this look like practically in the middle of everyday life? Here are 3 simple ways you can refocus in the midst of the chaos:
- Breathe! Literally, stop and take a long, deep breath before simply reacting to a situation.
- Turn on music that inspires you, calms you. Music has such a tremendous power to impact your mood, your heart. To lift your spirit and to speak to you when words are just not enough. As Hans Christian Andersen says, “When words fail, music speaks.”
- Savor your sip. Get a cup of coffee or a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea and enjoy it! Don’t just gulp it down, but take a moment to enjoy the smell, to savor the taste, to allow yourself to refocus by this simple act of enjoying your beverage.
And if you’re looking for more ways, check out this post on 7 Ways to Pause and Gain Space In Our World of Chaos.
Sunflower Lesson 3 :: Look to Others
Sunflowers are so unique, aren’t they? They’re so intent on the sun! But what happens when they can’t see the sun? What happens when clouds obscure the sun from their view? What happens when they can’t get their warmth from the sun and soak in its radiance?
Get this: They turn to each other!
Oh, how I love that! The flowers literally turn to each other. They face each other until the sun comes out from behind the clouds and they can turn to face the sun again.
How many times do you feel this in your life? There are times and seasons when it feels like the sun is absolutely hidden behind the clouds, isn’t there? There are times and seasons when it feels like no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get to that space, that place of hope, that feeling of gratefulness on your own, that place where you can find the space to breathe. What do you do in those times?
You turn to your friends. You know those friends, those ones that whenever you talk with them, you always walk away with a smile on your face. Those friends that whatever time you have to spend with them always feels far too short. Those friends that you walk away from encouraged, with greater perspective. Those friends where you tell your kids ‘It’s time to go’ and then you spend the next 30 minutes standing at the front door still talking because you just have so much more you want to share.
Who are those friends in your life? Who do you turn to for encouragement? Do you have friends like this in your life? Friends like these are precious treasures that should be cherished. Don’t take them for granted!
When you feel yourself losing focus, unable to see the sun through the clouds, reach out to good, encouraging friends. Sometimes just the simple act of reaching out with a text or a phone call makes such a huge difference in resetting your focus.
Sunflower Lesson 4 :: Better Together
Have you ever seen just one sunflower in a field? Not typically, right? Here’s one last thought for you: Sunflowers are better together!
Sunflowers rely on each other. They hang together. They grow together. They turn to each other and help each other when they cannot see the sun.
You, my Friend, are like a sunflower. (And I mean that as a compliment!) I’m like a sunflower. Each and every person is like a sunflower. We need each other to not only survive, but to thrive.
So, who are the other people in your life that you turn to? Who are those people you can rely on? Who are those friends you turn to when life gets hard? When you can’t see the sun behind the clouds? When you need to borrow perspective from someone because you feel that your perspective has been totally lost?
Do you know who those people are in your life? Oh, my Friend, treasure those people! Treasure those friendships! Pour into them, cultivate them, be a true friend. Because the truth of it all is, no one can walk through this life all alone, as much as we may like the thought that we can be self-sufficient! We need each other. We’re better together.
A Sunny Conclusion
Sunflowers are pretty incredible when you stop and think about them, aren’t they? They are big, bold, beautiful, cheerful, and can teach us a lot about life!
So don’t forget to look to the sun…
Keep turning to the sun…
Look to others for good friendship and perspective…
And most of all, always remember: We’re better together!
So the next time you see a sunflower, let it remind you that life is better with wonderful friendships!
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- What To Do As You Crave Balance As You Homeschool
- 7 Ways to Pause and Gain Space in Our World of Chaos
- Finding Perspective When You Feel You Have None
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.