The Healing Power of Gratitude
The secret to making it through just about anything is learning how to truly harness the power of gratitude. When the going gets tough, your mindset can either make or break you. That’s why it’s so important that you learn to cultivate a thankful mindset so you’ll always feel grateful.
It doesn’t matter what you don’t have, it’s learning to appreciate the things that you do have, no matter how small. You’ll find some of my favorite tips below that I use every day to keep a healthy and thankful mindset. It takes time to implement, but the rewards are priceless.
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Why Should I Care About the Power of Gratitude?
I didn’t care much for gratitude, until this book completely changed my life. My husband even calls this transformation “the new Bre.” Before I read the book, I was suffering from severe anxiety about the future, and my body was beginning to turn against me. Now I’m pursuing my dream life, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!
While this is not due completely to my mindset shift toward harnessing the power of gratitude, it certainly played a huge role. Studies have shown that learning to feel grateful is an integral part of positive psychology (source). That’s just a fancy word for the psychology behind positivity in your brain.
In other words, if you want to turn positives into negatives, you should simply look at the positives. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong, so incredibly wrong. Did you know that our brains are wired to have a high response to negativity? Electric currents flood our brain when we hear or experience something negative.
More brain activity leaves more of an impression on our minds. Makes sense, right? That’s why we tend to only remember the bad things that happened during our day instead of the good things. I like to call myself a pessimist at heart, so I can attest to this. When I started to become mindful of my thoughts, I noticed that any bad thoughts lingered in my head, while a good thought would only last a minute or two.
Have you ever stayed awake at night contemplating why you said “you too!” to the Chipotle cashier when they said “enjoy your burrito?” Just me? Okay then…Your brain loves and feeds off of negative feelings. That’s why you think the way you do. It may feel like a vicious cycle, but there is a way out of it. But why do our brains thrive off negativity?
It’s All About Survival
While it may seem like a major inconvenience to think this way, there is a good reason for it. We tend to focus on negative things for sheer survival reasons. Think about it. While it may be hard to believe, but we weren’t always “on the top of the food chain.”
If you saw a rickety bridge and nearly died trying to cross it, your brain would fixate on it as a negative experience. You would start to fear the bridge, and maybe anything associated with it. So you avoid those things at all costs. But if your brain saw the experience as neutral or positive, you would probably cross that bridge again and die in the process.
So while it’s good to have some negative feelings about things, we tend to let it take over our lives. Learning how to feel grateful is a skill that takes some time to develop. But if you feel grateful even when everything is going wrong in your life, you can survive anything.
My Surefire Ways to Always Feel Grateful
All it takes is little things here and there to add up to a new mindset change. I’ll admit that it took me almost a year to really start changing my mindset, and I still struggle sometimes. But when I’m having a particularly hard time, I try to do these things on a regular basis.
Read a Book on Gratitude
There’s no way that reading this one article on gratitude is going to get the ball rolling and change your life. I’d be flattered if it did, but seriously, gratitude should be a daily practice. It’s something you need to learn about slowly and work at and grow with. That’s why I love to read books on gratitude and personal development.
My best book recommendation on the power of gratitude is The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks. It’s very simple, straightforward, and a quick read. What I loved about this book was that everything was easy to digest, and it wasn’t a psychologist rambling about how the brain works. I should clarify that it was written by a psychologist, but it’s rambling free!
Unfortunately, gratitude isn’t something you can read about once and then suddenly change your life. Personal development is one of the best journeys I’ve been on, and it’s certainly been one of the most rewarding. So dip your feet into some good knowledge on gratitude practices!
Of course, I can’t finish this section without mentioning my personal favorite self-help book! The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield is the catalyst that changed my life. Not only did I develop a thankful mindset, but I learned how to go after the life I want.
Harnessing the power of gratitude takes action, too! But what kind of action is the best? Well, reading about the topic is one of them, but writing is another huge factor of cultivating a thankful mindset.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
I know, I know, this tip sounds a bit tedious. But trust me when I say that it has amazing benefits. Just take five or ten minutes out of every day to write down what you’re currently grateful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are.
Having a list right in front of you makes your mindset shift that much easier. That way you can easily keep track of the swirling thoughts in your head as you sift through them. I’ve found this to be helpful when I’m feeling particularly down, or if life doesn’t seem to be going in the direction I want it. After a bit of meditation and putting all things I’m grateful for in front of me, I realize that everything is just fine. It may not be ideal, but there’s always something in life to be grateful for.
If the though of staring at a blank page with zero ideas scares you a bit, no worries! I’ve been using this daily gratitude journal all year. Yes, I’m still using it even now, this late in the year! I love it that much! Everything is super straightforward, it’s full of inspirational quotes, and the prompts are easy to answer. It’s really helped me through my tougher months this year.
If you really like to write, you can format your journal however you like! There’s no wrong way to do it as long as it works for you. I prefer to have a big word dump and then refine it into a list. Keeping a journal is not only good for gratitude, but also a great self-care activity. You can find 10 more self-care activities if you really feel like treating yourself.
Acknowledge the Little Details
Every day, for about five minutes a day, I want you to think about unique things you’re grateful for. It can be before you go to bed, before you fall asleep every night, or both. I find it a nice way to start or end the day. When I’m laying in bed, I like to look around and find something to be thankful for that goes with each of the five senses. So I could tell myself “I’m thankful for the beautiful painting on the wall, the soft sheets around me,” etc.
Or if that doesn’t work well for you, find little things to be thankful for throughout your day. For me, I like to acknowledge that I’m thankful for a direct bus route to work, lovely coworkers, etc.Think outside the box! Do you have a particular skill that most people don’t have? Do you have people in your life that you should appreciate more?
It can be as small as being thankful for the way the light hits your desk. That’s actually something I’m thinking about right now as I write this. There’s nothing too weird or mundane! When a nice thought hits you, try to fixate on it and let that happy feeling spread through your body.
Watch Your Language!
No, I don’t mean swear less (although it could probably help)! You don’t just have to feel grateful, you have to act grateful! And this includes the way you talk. Pay more attention to the way you describe events to other people. Imagine you’re telling a story about how a car splashed a massive puddle at you while walking into work. Negative language would look like this:
“I nearly made it inside before this idiot in a pickup truck sped through a huge puddle and splashed me! Who does something like that? Now I’m freezing!” Whereas positive language would look like this:
“Someone wasn’t paying attention and splashed through a puddle right next to me when I was walking in. I’m glad I was wearing a waterproof coat. I’ll just stand in front of the heater for a few minutes and I’ll be fine.” See the difference?
Whenever I tell a story to someone else, or if someone tells me a story, I always try to mention something I’m thankful for. I won’t sugarcoat this, it will take some practice. And it’s going to be the last thing you’ll want to do if you’re particularly mad. It’s all a matter of learning that things (almost always) could be worse than your current circumstances.
Final Thoughts on the Power of Gratitude
If you do at least one of these things every day, I can guarantee that your mindset will start to shift. It may tay two weeks or two months, but you’ll notice a difference in the way your mind works. I have found that learning to feel grateful for the little things has helped the most, and it’s the easiest to do!
You should also try to pay more attention to the way you talk, and incorporate more thankfulness into your language. I always get comments from people along the lines of “I didn’t think of that, you’re so positive!” And it really even the people around me get through their days a lot easier.
Last but not least, write it down! Lay all of the wonderful things in your life in front of you. It’s pretty hard to feel bad when you have so much good to look at and think about. Being thankful will get you through hard times because it reminds you of the good things in your life. So focus more on the good, and less on the bad!
Do you practice thankfulness regularly? What’s your favorite activity? Let me know in the comments!
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