Do you know the easiest way to chase away negative emotions is through gratitude?
Gratitude has been shown to have a very positive impact on many areas of our lives. It helps us to be healthier, have a stronger immune system, reduces stress, encourages endorphins, improves relationships and generally puts us in a more stable mood.
How do we get this happening every day though?
How can we be grateful when we are actually dealing with very real and painful experiences like job loss, grieving, financial concerns or relationship problems? It might be of interest to know that developing the habit of gratitude uses a different part of your brain to the one that focuses on problems. This is the stress response but gratitude, like forgiveness, is more of a thoughtful, practiced response that takes place over time.
For some people gratitude can be said to be something that “happens”. Just say you get a great new job, meet the person of your dreams or have some fantastic lucky streak. Wow. Then we say “this is amazing, this is great, I am so grateful!” However, after these events pass then person then resumes their usual mindset.
So to have gratitude available every day we must start to be grateful for the things that happen every day. Get it? Like, if you wake up and you are grateful for your cup of tea, your warm bed, your feet as they hit the floor on the way to the bathroom – you are getting it, you are getting there. That’s how ingrained and automatic gratitude can be.
A great way to start this process is via a gratitude journal. Many therapists will suggest a simple 3 things a day you are grateful for. Sometimes, for many clients struggling and dealing with anxiety or depression, this can feel false. What to write down, they ask? Often they find themselves writing the same things every day as they will say that is all they can identify. This is when we have to get creative because we want to fill those journals and encourage the client to notice so much more.
So then we get to play and write and think of everything. “I heard a bird this morning, I have working ears and live in nature!” “The sky was blue and I thought wow sight is truly awesome and the colours of the world are amazing”. “I sat down at my laptop and thought how incredible this machine is”. So there is so, so, so much.
Another aspect of gratitude that is one step further along is when we are grateful for things that one the surface look bad. So we learn to find the silver lining in the clouds. This also has the nice added benefit of really increasing our resilience.
A great part of building the habit of gratitude is that once you start and get creative it’s hard to stop. It’s a new mindset and like all mindsets that we want to adopt (just like forgiveness and feeling positive) it takes time to develop the habit and acquire the skill. We just need to practice a little every day and it will start to build.
Once you take the time to develop this it really makes a great, positive difference in your life.