3 ways a gratitude mindset can help us through these tough times
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
As I opened my eyes that morning, I felt like my world had imploded. I’d just been signed off work, there were serious personal issues I was dealing with and I didn't even know how I was going to make it out of bed let alone get through the day.
Thankfully, I had my first CBT session which dragged me out of my pit and into the shower. I don't remember what was said, but I’ll never forget the homework my therapist gave me: To find 3 things every morning that I was grateful for. I thought she was bonkers to be honest, but I was so desperate to feel better that I played along.
And man, am I glad I did. That simple act of forcing myself to see the good in my life changed my perspective no end. In fact it was so life changing that it's something I still do religiously to this day.
Why gratitude is so important now
2020 has arguably been one of the most testing years on record for everyone around the world. We’re all living with increased stress due to the uncertainty that this pandemic has lumped on us. One study found that 57% of people are experiencing greater anxiety, and 53% of us are more emotionally exhausted. And for the majority of us Brits, having just had our Christmas cancelled, many of us are struggling to see how anything good can possibly come of this year. Happiness seems - at best - a stretch.
However, in positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. According to Harvard Medical School, it helps us feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve our health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
So, how does it work?
Simply put, we experience gratitude when we shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do. In his article ‘Why Gratitude is Good’, Dr. Robert Emmons says his research found that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy. When we take time to focus on what we’re grateful for, we choose positive emotions over negative which in turn nurtures our mental health and wellbeing.
If you’ve ever noticed that when you are looking to buy a new car you start noticing them everywhere? That’s because, consciously or unconsciously, whatever our mind is focused on, we see more of. So, if we want to trigger more positive thoughts in our mind, the first step is to intentionally shift our focus to what we’re are grateful for.
The 3 simplest ways I’ve found to cultivate gratitude
I now have a daily ritual where I practice gratitude every single day. You can do this in a number of ways:
1. Writing down 3 things you're grateful for every morning
They can be as big as ‘Trump isn’t in office anymore’, or as seemingly insignificant as ‘I have toothpaste, so my breath won't smell today’. The only rule here is that they can’t be the same thing every day, you have to think of something different.
2. Use questions or prompts to help you, such as:
What have others done for you that you’re grateful for?
What’s a stressor you’re grateful to have put behind you this year?
How many of your basic needs do you not have to worry about meeting today?
Have you had a chance to help someone recently, and how did that make you feel?
What’s something you look forward to in the future (even if it feels far away right now)?
What’s something enjoyable you get to experience every day that you take for granted?
What’s a hard lesson that you were grateful to learn?
What about today has been better than yesterday?
What aspects of your physical health do you feel grateful for?
What happened today/yesterday/this week/this month/this year that you’re grateful for?
What aspects of your personality that you’re grateful for?
How have you used your talents recently, and what have you enjoyed about doing that?
What relationships are you grateful for?
What’s an aspect of how you were parented for which you feel grateful?
What’s one thing you’ve enjoyed about doing your job recently?
What made you laugh or smile today?
What material possessions are you thankful for?
What about your surroundings (home/neighborhood/city/etc.) are you thankful for?
3. Bringing a friend or family member on board with your gratitude mission
I did this with a friend and we would text each other every morning with things we were grateful for. It not only helped us personally, but it encourage and inspired each other to feel positive on days when we otherise may not have.
Now you may be reading this after a particularly bad day, thinking I’m bonkers (just like I did with my therapist). But I urge you to give it a go. There are ALWAYS things to be grateful for (even now), and gratitude reminds us how special our lives actually are and how fortunate we are, even at the moment.
Looking for some help finding some positivity amongst all this mess? Get in touch to see how I can help.
Career Change & Business Coach and Side Hustle Queen
Hi, I'm Lauren. I burnt out, hit rock bottom and used the experience to manifest my dream life. I now help passionate and ambitious women change career, start side hustles and grow businesses. I'm living proof that you can - and deserve to - have it all.
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