(2 minute read)
I begin each day by spending 10 minutes writing about things i’m grateful for. Whether it’s food in the fridge, a roof over my head, a healthy and mobile body or a goal i’ve just achieved. I practice this discipline not only to be happy and more positive but to stay humble as well. This exercise not only creates the habit of seeking out things to appreciate in life but it reminds me how lucky I am to live in a society that allows me so much freedom to build a life of my choosing and i’m not trapped in a slum in India or refugee camp somewhere.
I’m conscious that so far this article has been very I, I, I, me, me, me but it’s the fastest way for me to get this point across. Developing an attitude of gratitude has been shown numerous times across numerous studies to have dramatic effects on mental health. A technique I use whenever I find myself indulging in negative thoughts is to instantly switch to finding things I can be grateful for. This not only gets you out of your head and into the present moment (which by the way is where the fruits of life are) but it builds the habit of diverting your attention away from the addictive negative patterns we all fall into and directs your focus to appreciation.
It’s impossible to be angry, upset, anxious, jealous or any other undesirable emotion at the same time as being grateful. Try it. Not to say these emotions aren't useful or serve a purpose, because they do. But it’s not the state we want to spend the majority of our time. That’s why snapping back to gratitude and looking for things we can appreciate is such a simple and useful way to prevent getting caught up in bad thoughts.
I’m not saying that it’s easy because it isn’t. Getting dumped by your partner and then trying to be grateful for a sunny day or having two legs is obviously going to be pretty hard. That’s why it’s a discipline to be practiced and turned into a habit. Our strongest impulses come from our most frequent actions. So the more you decide to think about what your grateful for in life the easier you’ll find things worth appreciating.
Don’t take my word for it, try it. And of course, i’m extremely grateful for you taking the time to read this article.
Words by Joshua O'Callaghan