Regardless of what situation we're in, there's always something to be grateful for. It may not be big, but there's something. Even prisoners of war can be grateful for just being alive.
As humans, we're biologically wired to look for negatives; it is an evolutionary trait that has helped the human race grow so rapidly. If you're reading this, however, you probably have a pretty good life compared to others in the world. You almost certainly have a better life than those who lived a century ago. And often it's hard to simply appreciate what we already have.
That doesn't mean we as humans don't take the time to look for areas of improvement. That's how we progress as a species.
You can do both. You can see both the good and bad in this world. It's not all doom and gloom.
We spend so much time focusing on the bad, that sometimes we forget to also focus on what's good, what we are grateful for. For me, a practice that helped me see the good in all situations is gratitude journaling.
The process is simple:
- Each day, write down three things you are grateful for.
Be specific. Instead of "I am grateful for my friends", try "I am grateful to have Sarah in my life. I know that she is someone who will always be honest with me, even if it stings in the moment, because it makes me a better person and she only wants the best for me."
- Try writing with pen and paper over digitally.
Handwriting slows you down. Slowing down means you think about what you're writing. Thinking about what you're writing helps you appreciate what you're grateful for.
- If you feel like three things is too much to get started, try writing down two things.
Is two too much? Write down one thing.
Do this every day.
Now, if you're like me when I first heard about gratitude journaling, you're probably feeling like this sounds too much like "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Chicken Soup For The Soul".
And I'm with ya. This sounds dumb.
Here's the thing, though: gratitude journaling is frustratingly effective. The point of the process is to exercise that optimistic part of your brain (you know, the one that's been sitting on the couch eating Cheatos for the past year). And it doesn't take a big time commitment, either. Five minutes a day is all it takes.
Everyone can give up five minutes of their day for this activity.
If you're feeling like you're focusing too much on the negative and could use a pick-me-up, I encourage you to give gratitude journaling a try, and report back in a month. You're not going to see an immediate change.
Maybe you'll be grateful for reading this.