I woke up today feeling a bit blue. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I didn’t sleep as soundly as I should have. Maybe the pandemic restrictions are getting to me, or maybe it was something else all together. My mind began to wander to the circumstances in my life which could be getting me down, all the things that weren’t perfect, and the more I ruminated, the worse my mood got.
Some days there seems to be a part of me that wants to wallow in the negative. It feeds on any detected sadness (no matter how small) and blows it up, way out of proportion. It sabotages my efforts and at the extreme, leaves me feeling worthless and doomed.
I know that I have a choice. I can continue to feed this negative voice or I can turn it around by changing my thinking. I have witnessed how my thoughts create my reality and affect my mood, and so I began to search my mind for ways that I might pull myself out of this funk.
I quickly remembered a practice I used to follow faithfully but which has recently fallen from habit. It consisted of the daily writing of at least three things I am grateful for. I had created a special journal for this purpose and set aside time each day, usually first thing in the morning, to make note of a few of the things I was grateful for in my life. I recalled how the act of identifying and recording these blessings consistently brought me more happiness, a positive perspective, better focus and improved relations.
In an article from Psychology Today (April 3, 2015) entitled, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude,” Amy Moran points out that daily gratitude can improve relationships, physical and psychological health, sleep, self esteem, mental strength, empathy, and patience. It can reduce depression and play a role in the overcoming of trauma. She cites a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being which reports that “15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.” She also adds that a 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that “Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post traumatic stress disorder.”
All good results that are surprisingly easy to conjure.
After pulling out my old journal and beginning to list all that I am thankful for (my health, my children, an amazing living situation, extra time to mountain bike and write this blog, access to good food, daily talks with my mom, the flowers in my garden, a job), I immediately felt better. The fog lifted and I could see a much more appealing reality.
There are many ways you can enlist the benefits of daily gratitude. You can journal as I do or simply set aside time each day to reflect on all you have. You can say a prayer at night that includes at least 3 things you are thankful for. Additionally, you can spread the gratitude to the people around you by thanking them for ways in which they may have helped. This will not only make you and them feel better and more appreciated, but it may also open up new opportunities, now and in the future.
Whatever method you choose, filling your mind with thoughts of gratitude will push out the negative saboteur and lead to a happy, healthy, and more fulfilling life.