I have been taking more time in my life to consider the things I am grateful for. This has helped with my mental health recovery. Normally, we may think about gratitude in terms of the things people have done for us. Gratitude can often amount to so much more than this. Learning how to practise gratitude can help you to feel better about your life.
The word ‘gratitude’ is a noun, meaning the feeling of being grateful, and wanting to express thanks.
Of course, you can still show you are grateful for the larger things in life. You might want to take some moments each day to consider some of the less obvious luxuries you may have.
Although there might be some aspects of your health you dislike, you may still be incredibly lucky. This can still be the case if you have a mental health condition. It took me a number of years to realise just how blessed I truly am. While your body shape may not be exactly how you’d like it to be (trust me, mine certainly isn’t!). If you are able to walk, talk, and live without constant pain then you have something to be grateful for. My overall health is something that I’ve noticed improving lately, since once again removing cigarettes from my life. The ability to breathe properly, unlike my father in his final weeks, and walk unaided, unlike my mother, is something that I am thankful for each and every day.
It can be difficult to see this one if you are scrimping to make ends meet each month. Learning how to practise gratitude can often really involve looking for little victories. If you have been able to pay the bills, rent, and put food on the table, you’re doing well. That can be seen as something to be grateful for. The same can be said for gaining employment. In a world where many people live far, far below the poverty line.
I am lucky enough to live in a country where education is provided, and made compulsory. Across the world, many children don’t have that luxury. Following school, I gained a degree and a Master’s, thanks to student loans. While I don’t use these for my work, I am grateful for the knowledge and opportunities.
Of course, these are only a few examples of things you could choose to be grateful for. This doesn’t include family, friends, or anything else positive in your life.
Gratitude and negative emotions
Learning how to practise gratitude can start with acknowledgement. While I have always hated the phrase someone has it worse than you, it could be used as a foundation. You might want to start by looking at things others lack that you have. This can help you to realise just how lucky you are. At the same time, it is important not to use this as a means of ignoring emotions. This phrase can be dangerous, and is often a means of negating someone’s feelings. Gratitude is about acknowledging the positive, not refuting the negative. In my opinion, all feelings need to be acknowledged and processed. Yet, I have found, I used to pay more attention to the bad than the good.
Make it easier to get into a habit
Verbalising these things, or even writing them in a journal, can also allow you to reflect back. This might be exceptionally helpful on darker days. As an example, when I feel like the worst parent in the world, I look at something my daughter has made for me. That helps me to think that I can’t be that bad.
In the beginning, these little elements of gratitude might be shocking. When you are in a bad headspace, everything can feel negative. Gratitude can be a wonderful way of injecting positivity into your day. It might feel foreign, but there are rewards for sticking with it. It is never too late to change the way you think about the different aspects of life.
Over time, you may find that you no longer need to write ideas down or say them aloud. It can be wonderful to look at different aspects in your life and see them as good. Learning how to practise gratitude can really affect your mindset for the better.
Simple ideas for those starting to learn how to practise gratitude
- I have a fairly good life (I am alive)
- We managed to budget this month
- I raised a polite child
- My child tried their best today
- I ate a healthy meal
- I did some exercise
- My parents try to help me
- My partner is respectful
- I went outside today
- I managed to make a doctor’s appointment myself
- The housework is done
I am, by no means, an expert at this. Even now, I still find myself shocked by elements of positivity, or the thought that I love my life. However, I also cannot claim that it will completely negate mental health symptoms. Learning how to practise gratitude is just one of the ways that I’ve made my own future that much brighter.