Prioritizing gratitude is a practice. As November begins, it brings along many new stressors for us to manage. For example, just as I am writing this, guess what I see looking out of the window? Snow. I am not ready for the dreary skies, the freezing temperatures, or having a longer commute to work due to slippery roads. I miss the sunshine already, and I am feeling the urge to retreat to my bed and hibernate.
I am noticing how dreadful I sound and feel. How can I so quickly go from seeing a few snowflakes to wanting to disappear like a grizzly bear? I actually do this often when the winter months approach. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the setbacks and frustrations the world is throwing at us, and I wonder how maintaining this negative lens can impact our moods.
There are countless studies that describe the positive effects of focusing on the things we are grateful for in our day-to-day lives. It is said that by regularly highlighting moments we appreciate, we will naturally start to think more positively. This sounds a little too good to be true, right? Well, let me explain more on how this idea could be effective!
One of the most crucial steps to creating a positive mindset is being the open to process. If you stay closed-minded and tell yourself that it is impossible or that there is nothing good to appreciate, then it definitely won’t work. Some questions to ask yourself before beginning this process are:
- What would it look like if I flipped the script?
- What if I focused on the opportunities that this new month could throw at me?
- It sounds impossible… but what if it wasn’t?
- What if there were things to appreciate, even if they feel small?
Challenge yourself to be more present throughout the day by recognizing the small things and practicing mindfulness. It’s easier prioritizing gratitude when there are more options to be grateful for! If it is still hard to pick out the positives, a great question to reflect upon is:
What wasn’t I noticing in that moment?
For example, earlier today, I wasn’t noticing how good it felt to get that extra hour of sleep from the end of Daylight Savings. I wasn’t noticing how cute my dog looked with tiny snowflakes on his nose. And I wasn’t noticing that my favorite song played on the radio during my drive home from the store!
After taking some time to intentionally become more aware, doing some constructive practices will help you to strengthen this habit of positive thinking. It is suggested that noticing three things you are grateful for every day will have the best results! Some people like to think of them in the morning to start their day with a boost while others, like me, like to think of them while reflecting at nighttime. No matter your preference, it is most effective to write them down—either on paper or electronically—so that you have a running list to review in the future when you need a little pick-me-up.
Here are some ideas to practice gratitude:
- How has someone shown you kindness recently?
- What have you eaten that was tasty lately?
- Who have you felt warm towards?
- What have you seen that is beautiful today? In the past week?
- What’s the last thing that has made you laugh?
- What have you done that you’re proud of (even if it was doing something simple, like keeping your cool during a frustrating moment)?
- What made you smile today?
Reflecting on this process can bring it all full circle. After a few days, or a week, take a look at the things you’ve been grateful for. How does it feel to see the positive things that often go unnoticed? How do you feel when you are prioritizing gratitude? Talk about this with a friend or another support person, and continue to implement more gratitude in your life. The more you practice, the easier it can be to have a more positive outlook. You deserve to feel the good things, even when life feels tough.
Connect with Perspectives Therapy Services if you want to work on your practice.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.