If you’re struggling with stress and negative emotions, you’re not alone. A majority of people affected by these emotions can feel overpowered by them. It’s difficult to balance all the aspects of life while you feel down or stressed, and often, personal happiness gets pushed aside when you are trying to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities.
It can feel like you are stuck in a cyclone of negative emotions — but remember, your mind is a powerful tool.
By implementing positive behaviors, you can change your outlook. Finding ways to express gratitude in everyday life is a staple to tackling these toxic emotions to improve your well-being. Becoming aware that you need to practice gratitude actively is the first step of the gratitude intervention. A little bit of practice every day is all you need to start making those changes you’re aiming towards.
1. Give Daily Thanks
At the end of your day, take a moment of gratitude and appreciate three of four things. It can be something simple. Some examples include beautiful weather, a warm bath, or a delicious cup of coffee. It’s essential to take a moment to appreciate the little things we may take for granted in daily life. It seems like society pushes you to reach for more, accumulate more, and dream for more.
Visual reminders on social media feeds can make it difficult to live in the present moment. They can enforce unfair comparisons to coworkers and friends that can damage your self-esteem. All this does is put your focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have.
These small things matter — it’s essential to put into perspective that not everyone has the same privileges. Daily gratitude for the small things changes how you view your life and can change your mindset, one of the most significant benefits of gratitude.
Check out our guide to keeping a positive mindset for more information. Positive psychology and gratitude go hand in hand — they complement each other, so it’s helpful to learn ways to maintain a positive outlook while you learn to practice gratitude.
2. Start a Gratitude Log
Consider recording parts of your life that you are thankful for. This is a more involved version of your “daily thanks.” This can be a gratitude journal, a piece of paper, a scrapbook, or a gratitude jar. Sitting with your thoughts for a few moments, try to write down things you feel grateful for. Do this at least once weekly, or make it a daily practice.
Having a place to look back on these is a great tool to turn to if you’re feeling down or experiencing a low point in your life. These entries can range from catching up with a friend over a tasty lunch or receiving news that your pet is healthy. Try to include how these things made you feel.
Did reconnecting with your friend bring you comfort? Is the stress of the unknown about your pet’s health diminished? Emphasizing the positive emotions of an experience changes how you see happiness.
People often define happiness as big-ticket items or events like a job, a car, or a relationship. However, those events can put a lot of pressure on people if they don’t have them. We expect happiness to be an all-day, everyday emotion once everything in your life is what you want or how it “should be.”
This isn’t a realistic expectation to have about yourself or life. Happiness can be as simple as a walk on a nice day on your favorite trail, and learning to be grateful for finding happiness in simple ways can boost positive emotions and improve your mental health.
3. Speak What You Practice
Expressing feelings of gratitude to other people verbally or in a gratitude letter is another way to practice.
It’s more than the polite ‘thank you” people often give — showing recognition for another person’s act of kindness makes them feel appreciated. Communicating your gratitude towards someone helps them realize their actions matter, enabling you to recognize the kindness of simple gestures.
Practicing gratitude in this way can often ignite the “pay it forward” notion, leading people to help others. The attitude of gratitude is contagious, and grateful people create grateful people.
When someone is grateful for something you do or say, it not only makes that person feel good but you as well. Practicing this with loved ones and family members is key, too.
Often, a loved one will do anything for those they love because they love them, but expressing to them how grateful you are for them and their love can improve wellness. It can strengthen your connection and deepen the bond you both have.
4. Reshaping the Past
We cannot alter our pasts, but we can work to try to change how we view them. A lot of people have events that became turning points in their lives. Maybe there is a regret that weighs on you. Applying your gratitude practice to these past situations may aid you in processing them.
A heartbreak, for example, can be devastating. You may regret forever dating that person, and the memories can be painful.
Try viewing it with a grateful mindset. How did that heartbreak change your life for the better? Did you end up connecting deeper with the friends who helped support you? Maybe you moved cities and found a new job you love, or you learned how you needed to be loved and what you want out of a relationship.
This may be difficult to do with a still-fresh experience or event — however, seeing what you gained rather than lost from a situation can help you move on and minimize negative emotions that tend to linger, such as resentment and bitterness.
The longer you hold on to those negative emotions, the more persistent they are to stay, leading to moodiness and stress. By practicing gratitude, you can change how these events affect your mental well-being.
Choosing one of the above skills to practice daily has many benefits. Implementing more expressions of gratitude in your life can lead you to allow negative aspects of life to slide off your back rather than sit and fester. Gratitude works to enhance your mood, better relationships, and improve your mental health.
Mental health can take a toll on your physical body without you noticing. Practicing gratitude can lead to improvements such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and increasing sleep quality.
It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean you can’t be upset or frustrated by things in your life, especially if they don’t play out as you planned. But practicing these behaviors keeps you from staying in that negative mindset. There is a whole slew of benefits to practicing gratitude for you and even those around you. Change takes time — show yourself gratitude that you are here learning to take better care of yourself.
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