It’s easy to get caught up in the negative news that’s constantly circling around you. From pandemics, to unemployment, to violent crimes, there’s no shortage of events that incite feelings of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, negative emotions are like quicksand; once you start sinking in, it’s tough to pull yourself out.
Practicing gratitude is a good antidote to the negativity. Though it’s often viewed as a Pollyannaish activity that’s out of touch with reality, this is a false belief. In fact, the benefits of gratitude have repeatedly been confirmed by science. The research is clear: Those who are consistently grateful report that they are more energetic, more joyful, better able to focus, make more rapid progress toward their goals, and have greater resilience during challenging times. Furthermore, grateful people have stronger immune systems and sleep better at night.
The question is – how do you become more grateful? We live in a consumer-based society, where we’re constantly inundated with advertisements for the next best thing, whether that means electronics, clothing, or home décor. Wherever you look, you may feel tempted to desire something other than what you already have – and will likely start to feel that what you already have isn’t good enough.
Try the following methods to increase your sense of gratitude:
Start a gratitude journal: Set some time aside each day to write down at least three things for which you’re grateful. What made you laugh, what warmed your heart, what made your life a little bit easier? What’s something that went well, when it could very well have gone sideways? Take some time to reflect upon the positives.
Share your thanks: When someone helps you out, makes you smile, or takes your needs into account, say “thank you.” Not only will they appreciate the recognition, but getting into the habit of thanking people will make you more receptive to the good things around you. Feeling especially appreciative? Write a letter to someone outlining why they’re special, and how they’ve enhanced your life, or the world in general.
Make it a group activity: Talk about gratitude with others. If you take turns sharing things you’re grateful for with a loved one, you might notice the momentum, and the feelings of positivity, build. Some people also enjoy writing down the things for which they’re grateful on slips of paper, and then reading them at the end of the month for a boost of feel-good energy.
Get Specific: Writing “I’m grateful for my home” is a good start, but you might see improved results if you write, for example, “I’m grateful for my kitchen table that my family gathers around” or “I’m thankful for the fluffy comforter I snuggle under at night.”
Practicing gratitude compensates for the human brain’s tendency to focus on threats, worries, and negative aspects of life. Open your eyes to the beautiful things you may have been taking for granted, and notice how your quality of life improves.