Gratitude I must say has had the biggest impact on changing the way I feel instantly. I’m not going to lie, I still have negative, and unwanted thoughts, but today I no longer have the feelings to act on these things; and they only ever escalate if we focus on them.
Whenever I have these thoughts I simply reach into my tool box and reach for a gratitude list (a pen and paper will do or just type them into notes on your phone). All you have to do is simply write 3-5 things that you are grateful for that day.
The way the mind works, it can only focus on one thing and I can guarantee if you’re focusing on things you’re grateful for, you won’t be focusing on those negative thoughts or feelings. You don’t have to wait until one of these times to do this task though and I’d encourage you all to do this daily.
I have created a list of 2 years’ worth of things (some repeated I must admit) and often find myself looking back through it and it fills me with nothing other than happiness.
But you don’t just have to take my word for it as now there is vast amounts of research that look into how impactful gratitude can be on people mental wellbeing. A study was carried out using 300 university students who were all experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
The study offered counselling to all students whilst others got counselling and were asked to write gratitude letters each week and a third were asked to write about feeling and emotions around negative experiences. The results showed that those who wrote the gratitude letters were still in a better mental state 4 weeks and 12 weeks after the writing exercise had ended so not only helping them while doing the writing but also for long periods after.
What you focus on is what you get.
When they looked closer at the study they found that it wasn’t actually the writing of the positive things that made the greatest impact it was not focusing on the negative things and what better way to not focus on the negative than to focus on the things your grateful for.
This study also went a step further to see how practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on brain function especially on the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain responsible for learning and decision making. They found that even 3 months down the line the effects of gratitude writing were still having a more sensitive effect on the brain which in turn can suggest that would improve long term mental wellbeing.
Why not give it a go and try writing down 3-5 things your grateful for each day and see if it can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.