Gratitude & the power of the words we speak to ourselves – 3 tips to cultivate “Gratitude”
- Claire Hurwitz
- February 18, 2021
- Keep a Journal
It’s safe to say that we all desire to have a happy and satisfying life – a fulfilling and secure job, a great family, financial stability, and an active social life. Whilst these desires can help motivate us to continue putting in time and effort into important value domains, one can quickly become consumed in this pursuit of the ideal happiness – a checklist of what we believe we need to achieve to feel (and say to ourselves) that we live a happy life.
But how often do we actually take a minute to bring our focus to the present moment and reflect on what we already have right now?
Gratitude is a powerful human emotion. In positive psychology, gratitude is defined as the human way of acknowledging the good things in life. Put simply, gratitude is a state of thankfulness.
“Gratitude is associated with a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person” (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
As a human race, we seem to have adopted a mindset where we live for the future. Our minds are often future-focused; whether it’s working on future goals, planning for a holiday, organising an event, or wondering about the “what if’s”. The point is – many of us tend to invest so much time into planning out the perfect life which we believe will bring us true internal happiness, so much so that it can start to feel like living is a project that we have to solve. The abundance of societal norms, expectations, and overall pressure can lead to one’s attempt to construct an idea of what constitutes a happy “ideal”life.
This tendency to project into the future and become consumed about the things that we don’t “yet” have but ultimately want, relates to a broader notion about the words we choose to speak to ourselves. Our words are everywhere – we use them when we speak, write, read, listen, and think. So it makes sense that the language we use can have such a significant impact on the way we feel in our day-to-day lives.
By default, humans often think about what you don’t want or don’t have. The cliché example “Don’t think about a pink elephant’ perfectly illustrates the power of words. How many of you just visualised a pink elephant?! I thought that might’ve been the case.
So how can you combat this default negative pool of words that we seem to speak to ourselves on either a daily or weekly basis….
Stop thinking about what you don’t have & want and start noticing what you do have & want.
Simply put, negative thoughts are more likely to lead to negative emotions and experiences, and positive thoughts are more likely to bring positive emotions and experiences into a person’s life.
Being thankful for what you do have in your life is a powerful way to turn your mind away from the more negatively-charged words and thoughts to a space of greater positivity and happiness.
- Keep a gratitude journal
Every night before going to bed write down 5 things you are grateful for for that day.
Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgement. Gently close your eyes, or keep your gaze on the ground. Then, gradually bring to mind someone you love – your partner, child, good friend, family member – at their happiest. Imagine them getting exactly what they want. How does this affect your mind and body? Can you see your smile? Can you feel a sense of joy? Stay with this for a few moments.
- Cognitive re-wiring from negative to positive thoughts
– Think of a positive thought whenever a negative thought pops up in your mind
– Identify at least one positive thing that you appreciate or can learn when you’re faced with a seemingly bad situation
The key to practicing gratitude is to incorporate it in your day-to-day life and eventually it become part of your default way of thinking. If you’re someone who is likely to forget about or make excuses to not practice gratitude, schedule it in by setting a reminder for yourself on your phone to pause and think of something you’re grateful for in that moment.
Claire Hurwitz – Clinical Psychologist