Gratitude can be a game changer. It helps train your brain to notice and appreciate the little things in life and, in doing so, shifts your life experience to a more positive space.
We know that gratitude can increase your happiness and wellbeing, life satisfaction and even physical health. At the same time though, it can help decrease the negative stuff such as anxiety and depression. It is a powerful practice to cultivate, especially if you struggle with anxiety or depression.
There are many different forms of anxiety and depression, but they have a lot in common. They all have a common denominator of negative thought patterns. These patterns include both what we think and how we think. In other words, both the content and the process of thinking impact anxiety and depression.
Depression focuses our mind negatively on present and past events and anxiety makes us apprehensive about future events and scenarios. We can build up the problems and catastrophise or jump to the worst case scenario. It is like mental time travel, it pulls us out of the present moment and we focus on things that we can't change. Research has shown that if we are focussed on the present moment we tend to be happier, even if that present moment presents us with challenges. This is where gratitude can really help, keeping us grounded and looking at our present situation more objectively.
We can use gratitude as a form of displacement therapy, replacing negative habits with more positive ones. It is a form of HRT (Habit Reversal Training). We introduce a new habit which is incompatible with the habit we are trying to break.
For example, if you're trying to break a nail-biting habit, you might clasp your hands as a competing response when you feel the urge to bite. Consistently using a competing response trains your body to replace the undesired habit with the new one.
Introducing practices of gratitude as a competing habit to negative brain patterns really will make us more positive and feel happier! It's really difficult to behave in an appreciative manner and be stuck in a negative cycle at the same time. When you feel your mind slipping down a negative path and ruminating on everything that is wrong, challenge your mind to find something in that moment to be grateful for. In doing so, you're combatting the negative content of your thoughts and you will be bringing your mind into the present.
We will always live through challenging times. We will not always be happy. Gratitude doesn't always take away the pain; it is possible to be hurting and grateful. We can add gratitude to our coping mechanisms and you can use gratitude as a lifeline to keep you from drowning in the negative mental habits that intensify your pain.
Gratitude helps us to take a step back from our difficult situation, grounds us in a more positive present and helps us to replace negative habits with more positive, productive ones. It bolsters our resilience and adds significantly to our coping mechanisms.
Gratitude really is a wellbeing game changer!