I’ve learnt over the years that one of the most powerful tools I can use to pull myself out of a bad mood, is to be grateful.
When I first heard about gratitude lists, I kinda scoffed. It doesn’t sound like much, and without ever trying it, I decided it was nonsense and didn’t work.
Reading about people who were always optimistic, and sat down to write about things they were grateful for, made me angry. Like anyone can be happy all the time?
I’m not sure why it made me angry. I guess I felt attached to my anger, for want of a better word. It is easier to be angry about something, or everything, than be vulnerable and admit that something is hurting, or you don’t feel happy.
It’s waaaay less scary to blame your unhappiness on the traffic, the hot weather, the idiots you encounter, than admit to yourself your mindset is the problem.
It took years of slowly building up my self-confidence and self-esteem, of examining why I felt angry so often, and resolving to heal some of those issues, before I could fully recognise how in control of my thoughts and feelings I am.
I have come to appreciate over the last few years, especially since Willow was born, how valuable practising gratitude is. When I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or stressed out, it helps bring me back to centre and calms me.
Regardless of how I’m feeling, I try to write a gratitude list every day, or at least a few days a week. It’s easy to get yourself into the habit of mental health care like this when you’re feeling upbeat, so that when it’s difficult, or you’re tired and overwhelmed, you already have your established habits to fall back on.
I suggest jotting down three things you are grateful for before bed, or in the morning before work (or both!) and why you are grateful for them.
For example; I am grateful for my house, because it is a warm, safe, dry and comfortable place to live. Noting the ‘why’ really helps hone in and pinpoint your gratitude.
You could rattle off “I’m grateful for my house, my job, my family”, but without really examining why you are grateful for each thing, the gratitude doesn’t impact you as much. We’re aiming for the warm and fuzzies here, so really focusing and getting to the root of your gratitude is important.
My top three tips for starting a gratitude list are:
Use a sweet little notepad, or diary that you love
I’m a total stationary geek and have been known to have at least five empty notepads on hand at any given time. There is something so delicious about buying fresh, clean, beautiful stationary (or is it just me…). Having a special place to write your gratitude lists can make the whole experience feel more special and sacred.
It can be difficult to shift your mindset after a long time of focusing on the negatives. I know I struggled to begin with. Even if you only start with one thing each day, that would be wonderful. If you’re struggling to think of something; what happened to you today that was pleasant? “I’m grateful for my barista at Starbucks because they were friendly and made my delicious coffee just the way I like it”, or “I’m grateful for my bed because it is warm and comfortable.” Who doesn’t love their bed after all? Find something little you can be grateful for, and after a while your mindset will shift and you will see more and more good around you.
Like any habit, you can fall out of the grateful mindset. I am guilty of feeling good and forgetting or putting off my gratitude practise. Right enough, days, weeks will pass, and I’ll find myself grumping about nothing and being a grouch. When you have a designated time each day to reflect and be grateful, it really does affect your overall outlook and ability to find and feel joy. Similarly, when you neglect this practise, you can slip into old habits and find yourself being frustrated and grumpy.
Think of your gratitude, and positive mindset, as a muscle. If you don’t train it properly, it will not be strong. Work at it steadily, and you will find happiness and a joyful outlook will become your new normal.
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Have any of you tried starting a gratitude practise? Or do you have another habit that helps you stay grateful? I’m always interested to hear how people keep themselves feeling good, so pop a comment below, shoot me an email or connect with me on Instagram!