When things don’t go our way it is easy to feel sorry for ourselves. We focus on the negative aspects of a situation and spiral into a state of distress. Take this story for example:
Due to mudslides, my train journey to LA had been cancelled so I had to book a last minute flight. I was waiting at the airport in San Luis Obispo, CA, having just said a teary goodbye to my boyfriend. An announcement informed me that my flight was going to be delayed. I would now miss my next flight home.
When I arrived at LAX, I needed to figure out if I was able to get on a later flight home. Thankfully, I was. After rushing through security, I only had time to grab a bag of chips and some kind bars. This food was all I had to get me through the 10-hour flight.
I landed in London with a 1-hour tube journey, a 3-hour wait at London Euston and a 3-hour train journey home ahead of me.
24 hours after my journey began, I arrived home safely. I was feeling sad, tired, frustrated, and victimised by the planet. I had a “Why me?” attitude.
Changing My Perspective.
I found the 24-hour journey home to be stressful and upsetting. Was it really that bad though?
For my New Years Resolution, I was trying to be more grateful. This was the perfect opportunity to practice that. I listed all of the ‘bad’ things that had happened to me during my journey home and countered them with positives. For example:
- My train got cancelled due to mudslides = People died in those mudslides. I’m grateful that my family and I are safe.
- My flight was delayed = I am fortunate enough to be able to travel.
- I could only buy chips and kind bars = I have easy access to safe and edible food.
- It took me a long time to get home = I have a warm and loving home awaiting my return.
- Travelling is so tiring = I am physically able to travel.
Can Being Grateful Change Your Life?
In short, the answer is yes.
Two psychologists conducted research into whether being more grateful impacts people’s wellbeing. They divided several hundred participants into three groups. All of the participants were told to keep a journal about their day. The first group were given no further instructions. The second group were told to write about their unpleasant experiences. The third group were told to write about what they were grateful for that day.
The findings showed a wide range of improvements for participants in the gratitude group. They had higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. They were found to help others more and they made greater progress towards achieving personal goals. They also reported lower levels of depression.
Further to this, being grateful is thought to increase happiness levels by around 25%. This could be because practising gratitude can lead to better resilience, more creativity, stronger immune system function and more social connections.
These all sound like damn good reasons to start appreciating the small things!
(All research mentioned taken from here)
How to be more grateful.
This is actually a lot simpler than you may think. You don’t need to change your life to start being grateful, you can start today and watch your life change!
1. Make a gratitude jar/journal: This first tip is one that I recently implemented. At first, it might feel like a drag and something you’ll forget. To counter this, set a reminder and make it part of your daily routine. It’ll soon become something you look forward to. After my morning meditation, I journal and write the things I am grateful for. Some examples are: “I am grateful for the warmth of the sunshine”, ” I am grateful for my body” and “I am grateful for laughter”.
2. Practice being present in the moment: Being present can help reduce stress and anxiety. Societal pressures cause us to think ahead making it difficult to stay present. Try being fully immersed in the present moment. Focus on the sensations you feel around you. What your emotions are. Who you are with. Be grateful for where you are right now instead of wishing for a brighter future. We often get sucked into thinking that “when I have this I’ll be happier” or “once I’m here I’ll be happier.” None of that is necessarily true. Nothing exists except the present moment. The future and the past only exist in our minds. When we begin to focus on the right here right now, our levels of depression and anxiety will soon drop.
3. Share the love: Let others know how grateful you are to have them in your life and for all the things they do for you. (Hey mum, this one is for you ♥).
4. Negative thoughts lead to unhappiness. Replace them: Every time you feel a negative thought about yourself or your situation, pause, take a deep breath, then counter it with something positive, something you’re grateful for. This will soon become an automatic thought process. You will start to feel happier and become more grateful for the things you already have.
What are you grateful for today?