How to be Grateful (btw: it reduces anxiety too)

I just bought this new picture for my office:

Then I thought about how very hard this can be.

Scientific studies consistently prove the positive effects of gratitude for body, mind, spirit and emotions. It is proven that gratitude reduces stress and anxiety. Yet, it’s not always easy.

We all know we “should” be grateful. But telling yourself that you really “should” be grateful is “shoulding on yourself,” which actually creates less gratitude and more negative feelings.

 

How do we shift from knowing we should be grateful to actually being more grateful?

First, we need to understand why it doesn’t always come naturally:

a) Because we’re human beings. The human brain has a negativity bias thanks to our caveman brains and our fight-or-flight response. This comes from the part of the brain that is prone to anxiety and is trained to see negative things first (in case a sabretooth tiger is approaching).

b) Because sometimes life is hard and painful. Let’s just admit that. We all have truly difficult things to deal with at various points in our lives.

When life is going beautifully and all is well, gratitude may flow naturally. The challenge is how to choose to be grateful in the middle of everything that life presents.

It’s NOT all or nothing

At times life can be very difficult. This is true. AND at the very same time we can find something, however small, to be grateful for. This is also true.

Life is not black and white. It is very gray. Developing the ability to see both the good and bad at the same time is a skill that helps you live in the gray-ness of life.

In the gray, both the challenges and the gratitude can be true at the same time.

Here’s where choosing comes in… Searching for that small thing to be grateful for is a conscious choice. I’m not saying it is easy, but you can choose to do it.

Choose to search for a silver lining. Choose to look at both sides of a coin. Choose to allow yourself to feel better by finding one positive thing, even if you seem to be swimming in a sea of problems.

Why make the choice?

It’s a gift to yourself. Gratitude is a way you can take control of how you feel, no matter the circumstances around you. It makes you feel better and reduces stress and anxiety.

Choosing to be grateful makes you more powerful and in charge of your life experience.

Research shows gratitude increases happiness, reduces depression, creates positive changes your brain activity (per MRi imaging), improves relationships, increases motivation, and reduces anxiety. These are great gifts to yourself.

Choose and keep choosing

Don’t expect gratitude to come automatically at all times. Just keep choosing it.

Seek ways to practice gratitude to reduce stress and anxiety.

Just choose. Choose because you want to feel better. Choose because you deserve it. Moment by moment…keep choosing.