Some days may feel like a ball ache, with not a whole lot to be thankful for. If a loved one’s health is declining, or your life has taken an unexpected turn, gratitude might seem an out-of-reach fantast for hippies. On other days, though, things could be totally different. You might feel that life is going well, you’re whistling Dixie, and you find yourself grateful for every moment.
Gratitude may feel easier on some days than others. Remarkably, the very act of digging deep and finding things to be grateful for may help bring a positive change to your mental wellbeing. Studies have shown that practicing daily gratitude for may help make people noticeably more optimistic, and feel less anxious and more content.
“Gratitude can be thought of as a sense of thankfulness and appreciation for what is around you,” says clinical psychologist, Dr Sasha Lynn.
“Gratitude is finding light, even in dark moments, feeling grateful for what you’ve learned or overcome, or even the challenges that you manage in life. By focusing on what we are grateful for, and looking toward what is going right in our lives, it can help reframe our thinking processes.”
Researchers studied people who practiced daily gratitude exercises, then conducted imaging scans on their brains, and found there was a greater and lasting neural sensitivity to gratitude, compared to those who did not take part in gratitude exercises. Their brains may actually have developed new and stronger pathways geared toward happiness. Gratitude breeds happiness.
Incorporating gratitude into your daily life may seem weird at first, but over time it can become second nature and you can reap the happy brain benefits.
A gratitude journal need not be a fancy leather-bound, gold-embossed book—just a simple notepad will suffice. Take a moment daily to write three to five things that you are grateful for. It may be as simple as being thankful for having no washing to do today, or as profound as being thankful for having a comfortable roof over your head every night. There is no right or wrong answer. There is only your answer.
Accentuate the positive
When we slip into a negative frame of mind, it can be hard to see the positives that may be all around us. Instead of dwelling on what is wrong in any situation, try to look for what is right about it, as well. This can be used to help you shift your attitude more towards gratitude. Instead of just seeing a long wait at the doctor’s surgery as a negative blight on your day, you might also like to see it as an opportunity to sit quietly and read a magazine.
Share the gratitude
Sometimes we may take our lives for granted. The daily routine with the person we care for may seem overflowing with schedules and appointments. If the person you care for is able to share with you what they’re grateful for as well, why not take a moment together to express and share? It could help bring on a lovely moment of connection and happiness. If they aren’t able to share with you, perhaps you could sit with them and share it aloud. A moment of gentle, kind words may help nurture gentle kind feelings.
Mindfulness and meditation
When you’re feeling good about gratitude, extend the practice further with some mediation and mindfulness. Get some help to get started with the Smiling Mind phone app.
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