To be honest, I’ve had a few things happening recently that have driven me back to using all my positive psychology skills on myself. I’ve been practicing my mindfulness, using my 3:1 positive to negative thoughts, using self-compassion, doing things that make me feel connected to something greater than myself (nature, spiritual practices like yoga) and practicing gratitude.
Because gratitude has been repeatedly shown to be amazingly good for your mental health and happiness, there is an abundance of research that has been delving deeper into how gratitude works best.
Apparently, gratitude is most effective when we focus our gratefulness on the people in our lives. So being grateful for your comfy bed, clean drinking water, and living in a non-war-torn country is good. Being grateful for your friends and family is better. It’s even better still when you go really deep into the feelings of gratitude you have for them.
So keep focusing on all the reasons you’re grateful for them, savour the good times you’ve had together, remember times they’ve been there for you when you’ve needed them, get down deep with all the emotions that these thoughts and memories bring up. The more you intensify the good feelings about those people, the deeper your gratitude, the better you’ll feel and the longer your happiness will last.
Try it. It works.
What happens though, when it’s certain people who are the source of your suffering? A crappy boss who rides you for no reason, a family member that creates drama and always involves you, an ex who’s trying to make your life a living hell. If you’re anything like me it won’t be so easy to be grateful for them.
The good news there is a solution.
We might not be able to be grateful for how wonderful some people are but we can be grateful for the lessons we’re learning through having them in our life. We can be grateful that they are teaching us strength, compassion, or even self-control.
If it’s someone from the past, say a parent that has caused us a lot of suffering, we can be grateful for the challenges they have given us that have made us grow into who we are today. We can be grateful for the independence they taught us to have, that they made us better parents through wanting to do things differently to them, or even that what happened made us look deeper at ourselves and gave us an insight we may have otherwise missed out on.
When you start you begin to realise that the most challenging people in our lives have often given us the greatest gifts. And it’s these gifts we can practice being grateful for.
I have to admit when I started this practice I found it quite hard. Feelings of anger or resentment or thoughts like “I’m spinning myself a lot of rubbish in being grateful – this person does my head in” would pop up. Over time it gets easier and easier and the gratitude becomes more genuine and more fruitful.
Let me know how you go with your Attitude of Gratitude.