With all of the news focus on increasing animosity, hate and hostility and the ongoing focus on how we’re all so different and can’t get along rather than any focus on everyone’s similarities (we are all people after-all) , it’s really easy to get down in the dumps, depressed and feel anxious. One of the things I find myself going back to in order to get my spirits back up is an exercise I learned when I was struggling with depression: focusing on being grateful.
It’s really easy to think that there’s nothing to be grateful for with the state of the world these days. It’s also really easy (I’ve done it) to dismiss how much gratitude can help. How could forcing yourself to come up with things you’re thankful for possibly make the situation any better? Well, technically it doesn’t. But, it does change your perspective. I’m cynical but even I was able to come up with things that I was legitimately grateful for have in my life (and some ended up being really specific). Gratitude helped me realize that not everything was as bad as I thought it was and I had some control over it.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor talks about how waiting for an end result before you can be happy typically means that as soon as you reach that goal, you set a new one “before you can be happy.” He proposes several easy exercises, each of which take less than 2 minutes, every day to increase your overall happiness. One of them is to spend a month where each day you find three things (ideally different things) that you’re grateful for and spend a few seconds focusing on that feeling of gratitude.
I totally wrote the whole exercise off as silly & contrived. And then I thought “well, what could it hurt if I just try it?” So I tried it for a month. Once a day, on the way to work, I asked my husband to force me (yes, force — not a morning person, ok?) to come up with 3 things. I didn’t write them down or anything, we just briefly talked about them on our commute and then moved onto another subject. The first few days were tough. And then my perspective started to change. I started believing things were better (and not that whole rose-colored glasses thing) because I wasn’t so focused on all the bad. There was some balance. And I started realizing there were things in my life I could change. And I started feeling less anxious.
What are you grateful for?
How might gratitude help you? What are some things that you’re grateful for in your life? Even if you think it’s a crazy, waste of time exercise, I really can’t encourage you enough to consider giving gratitude a try (even if you’re thinking in the back of your mind that it’s stupid — because that’s what I was thinking). Try it for a month & report back. I’d love to hear how it goes.
Wishing you an All+SUM LIFE,