I’ve written before about keeping a gratitude journal to improve your mental health, but some people find it hard to pick enough to note down each day. In the midst of emotional or physical issues, what do we have to be grateful about?
Well, we can go really philosophical and think about all those things we take for granted like clean water or a roof over our heads but that may not really cut it for this type of exercise. After all, if you end up repeating your gratitudes, then maybe you’re not digging deep enough.
You need to train your brain to be more optimistic. So I offer a few suggestions to practicing being grateful.
Three good things
If you do keep a journal, think of three good things that happened during your day, no matter how trivial they may be, as long as they gave you positive feelings. It could be that someone gave you a seat on the bus, or that you were complimented on your new shoes. If they brought a glow to your day, even if only momentarily distracting from the turmoil in your mind, they are things to be grateful about.
The gooey message
Write a two minute email or text message to a different person each day, thanking them or praising them for something. It could be a colleague you worked with, or a family member you had a conversation about. Keep it short and to the point. It not only will bring you joy but may change dramatically the day for the other person. These things cascade quickly if we all did that!
The gratitude jar
Go to the kitchen and find one of those jam jars that you kept for a day you might needed. (Yes, we all do this.) Anytime that something nice happens to you, write it down in a piece of paper and fold it up to go in the jar. This also acts like a visual cue, as you’ll see how many good things are happening to you as the jar fills up. As a bonus tip, if you ever get to the position when you’re really feeling down, read one of those nice things for a quick positive boost.
Think of one positive experience at the end of the day and then analyse it in detail. What were you wearing, where were you, were there any smells around you, was music playing, etc. See if you can remember all the detail, and use all five senses. The more detail you can recall, the more intense the experience will feel at the end of it, as you’re essentially relieving it.
Practicing gratitude is exactly that, a practice that you must follow several days in a row. I’ve seen recommendations that 21 days is the minimum term that new behaviours are built so practice one of the above for that period of time to see transformation in your life.