It is so difficult to think positively when you are genetically wired for glass-half-empty thoughts. Whenever something good happens to me, I brace myself for the inevitable defeat, which I am convinced will follow. I’m sure I’ve created much of my own misery simply by thinking it into being. Sad, but true.
Most experts agree that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. Even the simplest behaviors take time and repeated practice to move them into automatic actions. Thoughts are no different. At first, it may feel forced and false to focus on the positive or practice gratitude when you really just want to go to bed and never wake up. However, that is when it is even more critical to stop the negative thought cycle and turn to gratitude. The brain cannot think two thoughts at the same time so every minute you spend on gratitude is one minute less of the “stinking thinking.” That, in itself, is a victory. Also, one expression of gratitude can lead to more positive or grateful thoughts and before you know it, you may, and most likely will, find yourself feeling a bit better.
One reason for that is the law of attraction. Good thoughts tend to attract more good thoughts and vice versa, which is why it is vital to stop a negative thought cycle and replace it with thoughts of gratitude. Practicing gratitude creates momentum in the other direction–the right direction, the direction up and out of the hole created by self doubt and hopelessness. I need to invest my time and energy in staying out of that hole and gratitude is one way to do that. It can be as simple as “I am grateful for my legs so I can walk.” Even if I don’t feel like walking or can’t muster the motivation, I can at least be grateful for the capability to walk.
It’s also important for me to find real things I am grateful for rather than constructing ones. Otherwise, it feels empty and makes me long for that missing thing even more. So I focus on people, traits, and things I actually have. For example, I have a house so I am thankful for shelter. Rather than focusing on specifics, I try to think of the general, basic needs that many do not have for which I have taken granted. It’s easy to feel like you have nothing when you scroll through a Facebook, (aka “Fakebook”) feed filled with pictures and posts of friends’ extravagant vacations, happy family photos, weight loss victories, career advancements, anniversaries, and enhanced selfies that bear little resemblance to the actual person. I have to remind myself (or my husband will) that none of that is real. I am seeing the aspects of people’s lives that they want me to see. It’s a glimpse into the best (or worst) of a person’s life and no more. Many would look at my posts and think I am doing splendidly, but I know I am not. I’m just not choosing to share the low lows. I feel them, though–all too frequently.
Perhaps the coolest thing about gratitude is that it literally rewires the brain–a far cheaper and less painful measure than more medication or, god forbid, ECT. I need all the help I can get and by focusing on all the good things I have rather than all the things I wish I had (or don’t have), I can form healthy habits and bring more positivity into my life.
For the science behind gratitude, check out this article: Gratitude Rewires Brain