As I log on to Facebook this month, I notice that many of my friends are posting about things for which they are grateful. Some are doing it each day. I realize that much of it is stimulated by our favorite food holiday that is approaching. I think it is great, but what I would challenge everyone to do it to be mindful of what your blessings are everyday of the year. It's easy to tell someone to count their blessings each day and on some level we all know that it's good, but I want to take a moment to really tell you why.
Negativity is easy. We don't have to think about it. It's like weeds in a garden. They spring up effortlessly. Being grateful takes deliberate effort. It's like planting flowers or vegetables in your garden. You have to decide what to plant and then you have to water and feed them for them to flourish. So while it is important to weed out the negativity, particularly if you are prone to depression, planting the positive is equally, if not more important.
So how do we plant the positive? I often challenge clients to identify three things they are grateful for each day. It's about cultivating a perspective, establishing a mindset, and creating a filter with which you view the world. It's no easy task, which is why I suggest identifying three things to get your brains thinking about what is positive. It helps to elevate mood, but more importantly it is about changing your automatic thoughts. I want clients to see the ordinary in new ways and to be able to appreciate small things. Being grateful for family, friends, health, jobs, for the big stuff is easy. Being grateful for the ordinary is harder. It's harder to see the beauty in the ordinary, in the everyday things, the small things we take for granted. Finding ways to be grateful for the technology, the conveniences, the raw beauty that surrounds us everyday is just as important as being grateful for the big stuff. When we can wake up each day grateful, regardless of weather, of our health, or the challenges ahead of us, then we know we have been successful at truly cultivating gratitude.
Research tells us that people who take the time to identify what they are grateful for are happier than those that don't. And who couldn't use a little more happiness in their life? It takes 21 days to create a new habit and gratitude seems to be a habit worth cultivating. I challenge you to cultivate a mindset of gratitude such that your default setting is to look for the good and appreciate the positive in every situation. I challenge you to do this everyday of your life, not just in November. Happiness is a skill that can be cultivated. What will you plant in your garden?