Here’s a confession – I’m not a natural optimist. I’m not one of those people for whom the glass is always half full. I have to really train my mind not to focus on how empty it looks. It’s not easy, I can tell you.
One thing that I’ve found particularly effective in recent times is practising gratitude. At the end of every day I sit and write down a list of five things I’m grateful for. Sometimes it’s easy and I can think of more than five, whereas other times I really struggle, but I make sure I complete the list. By focusing on the good things that happened in the day, or just the positive things in my life, I find that I feel happier and more optimistic.
photo credit: LexnGer
You don’t even have to write them down – it’s the process that’s important – so instead you could list them in your head as you’re getting ready for bed. If this sounds difficult, why not enlist a friend or partner to help you? You could send each other a daily gratitude email or text.
Incidentally, there’s research to back this all up. In one 2003 study a group of individuals wrote down five things they were grateful for each week, for 10 weeks. At the end of the trial this group were 25% happier than a comparison group who just wrote down five things that happened in the week.
Here are some of the things I’ve been grateful for recently (in no particular order):
- Enjoying a really good book
- Having an umbrella in my bag when it rained
- A chat with my mum on the phone
- Having a warm, comfy bed to sleep in at night
- My cat – simply because she’s cute
- Having macaroni cheese for dinner
- A driver stopping to let me cross the road
- Being happily married
And here’s why I think it works:
It helps turn a negative into a positive
For example, you might come home from work feeling grumpy and tired, which puts you in a bad mood. Why not turn it around by challenging yourself to think of things to be grateful for? It really helps to shift your mood and lift your spirits. You might feel grateful for getting a seat on the train on your way home or for the sun coming out just as you’re walking down the street.
It focuses our mind on the present
We’re all so wrapped up in what we’re going to be doing tomorrow, next week, next year, that we tend not to focus very much on the present. This is a shame because we can’t be fully enjoying our lives very much if we’re always focused on the future. Practising gratitude makes you think about the things you currently have, rather than all the things you want, and it encourages us to enjoy and appreciate the present moment.
It gives you a wake-up call
Feeling grateful for having a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in focuses the mind. It reminds you of the things that really matter in life. If I’m struggling to think of things to be grateful for I remind myself that I’ve got my health, my family and my friends, and it soon makes me feel better.
It brings more positives
According to the law of attraction, whatever you think about you attract, so if you are always feeling thankful for things, the more things will come into your life for you to feel thankful about!
About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality.