By: Dr. James Rouse
What if I told you that you could stop negative thoughts in their tracks? Or that the solution to finding your happiest self, and becoming a more loving partner and engaging friend, is up to you??
We sometimes forget that our thoughts are actually up to us, and that we have the power to minimize negative thinking. Everybody has pessimistic thoughts sometimes, but it’s important to know that those thoughts are totally normal.
The answer to negative thinking is not to pretend that we don’t feel upset or down from time to time. The answer is to own those negative thoughts by acknowledging them, accepting them as a part of life, and then CHOOSING to turn our attention to a place of optimism.
Since it can be difficult to be optimistic when life gets tough, it’s important to actively look for things that you can be grateful for. You can see it as enduring a gloomy day and thinking “today is rainy, but the past week has been beautiful!” You might even start to appreciate the rain as it helps you to recognize your fortune during the sunny days.
Gratitude has been shown to benefit our lives in a variety of ways, including overall optimism, more energy, improved sleep, an overall feeling of peace, and a stronger immune system. It allows us to shake our minds free of cluttered and gloomy thinking, and create space for clarity, peace, and a solid foundation from which to support ourselves and our loved ones.
Some ways to turn your focus to a place of gratitude include:
Send a Thank You Note
This is truly a Win-Win, since it helps us to feel connected each other and lifts up both people’s spirits. Thank You Notes can be done a variety of ways, including through email, but a hand written and “snail mailed” version really goes the extra mile to demonstrate the gravity of the impact the other person’s actions had on you.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals are a place to keep track of the blessings in our lives. They encourage us to notice all of the little things that bring us joy, rather than only noticing the big/obvious things that make us happy.
These written accounts also allow us to peek back on our journaling history in order to reflect on all of the gifts we’ve been given, so that we can feel hopeful during challenging times. Gratitude Journals can be an actual diary, recorded memos on your phone, or created using one of the dozens of Gratitude Journal apps available.
Give a Gift of Gratitude
Offering our time to others allows us to show people that we are grateful for their friendship. Not only does this improve the other person’s life, but knowing that we have the capacity to brighten someone else’s day reminds us that we have the power to turn our own attitudes toward happiness. Ideas for sharing your time might include baking cookies for a friend, helping a neighbor to mow their lawn, or showing a colleague how to use the latest version of your company’s content management system.
Seek Out Beauty in the World
One way to zero in on happiness is to stop running our lives on Auto-Pilot, and observe the simple beauty that might go unnoticed but exist right in front of us. Watching a bird glide gracefully through the sky, or noticing the shape of your city’s skyline, are just a few of the things that can help us to disconnect from monotonous daily tasks and enjoy our lives with newfound gratitude and appreciation.