As someone who sees the world with a glass half empty, starting each day with a grateful heart can be difficult.
I often feel like the positive voice is fighting against the negative voice in my head, and usually the negative voice is the loudest. I have recently learnt that the negative voice is my inner Mean Girl.
My Mean Girl is pretty horrible. She is bitchy, resentful and most of all, she is bored. I have been looking at ways of trying to silence her overwhelming negative voice and one thing keeps coming up in the search results. Gratitude.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps people feel more positive emotions, improve their health, build resilience , and strengthen relationships. So basically everything I am looking for.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. This is called Hedonic adaption; meaning that the shiny new iPhone you've been longing for won't actually make you happier in the long run, and you'll be pining for the next new shiny one when it comes out.
Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel really fake at first, apparently this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ideas that I have found to encourage the practice of gratitude on a regular basis:
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. I am really bad at this; I always have the intention to send cards but forget. Must do better.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down thoughts about the gifts you've received each day. This is something I will definitely try to do. By keeping it in a journal, it can easily be referred to again in the future.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.). I have trying to do some mindfulness for the last few weeks whilst I have been struggling with feeling down and stressed. Calm is a fantastic app, and the wonderful Calm Candles London has guided meditations for each of the beautiful candle fragrances.
I mean, looking at the list, it looks incredibly simple. Almost too good to be true but the science does back it up.
Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, have done a lot of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative).
After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to doctors than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
I can't promise I will remember to do it everyday for 10 weeks, but I will try my best! I'll let you know how I get on!