Did you know we can combat thoughts and feelings of sadness by acknowledging ‘what I am grateful for’ to ourselves. Research has shown strong links between gratitude and greater happiness, improved health and stronger relationships. So, what is gratitude? It simply means identifying the things in your life you appreciate or that bring you joy. By regularly focusing our attention on these positives, we can help to break the cycle of negative thought patterns and improve our mental health.
Daily habit: Asking what I am grateful for today
If you are struggling with low moods or difficult emotions, building a habit of acknowledging ‘what I am grateful for today’ is a great way to improve wellbeing and combat negative thoughts and feelings.
To get started, set aside five to ten minutes to sit down with a pen and paper (or the notes app on your phone). Write out a list under the heading ‘what I am grateful for today’. Push yourself to write down as many things as you can, the longer the list the better. Remember to take the time to appreciate each example and connect with its value to you.
Once you’re done, set a reminder to repeat the exercise the following day to help encourage it as a daily habit in your routine. The more regularly you practice considering what you are grateful for today, the easier it is to build positive thought patterns. You might like to build this activity into your bedtime routine, so you can reflect on the whole day and go to sleep with a positive mindset.
It may feel a little forced when you first start but like any new habit, it just takes some practice. Soon enough, it will flow more naturally and so will the benefits to your mood and outlook on life.
You can also turn to this activity anytime you want to shift your attention or lift your mood. If you are struggling with difficult emotions or negative thought loops, this is a helpful way to interrupt the pattern and relieve feelings of sadness or misery.
How to be grateful for what you have
Sometimes when we are overcome with feelings of sadness, it can be challenging to identify the things we are grateful for. This is often because we are ruminating on negative thoughts and memories, which is quite mentally draining. To help stimulate your mind to be able to recognise what you are grateful for, start really small.
Your examples can be as simple as the clothes on your back, or the warmth of your bed. Did you enjoy the cup of coffee you had in the morning? That could be something you are grateful for. Did you have access to food to eat when you were hungry today? That could be something you are grateful for as well. Slowly, as you practice, there will be more things you connect with in your life and see as something to appreciate. From material things like our possessions, to our loved ones and support networks, and even our experiences and memories.
Making a deliberate effort to express gratitude helps our minds to connect more deeply to the memory and categorise it positively rather than dismiss it and revoke back to focusing on negatives. It can be expressed quietly to ourselves in a written list, or aloud to another person – all methods are encouraged! Have you ever seen someone make another person laugh and then that person says afterwards “thanks, I really needed that.” This is an expression of gratitude.
So, if someone does something kind or makes you smile, practice expressing to them that you are grateful in the moment and pay the feeling forward where you can.
What I am grateful for: Examples to get you started
Need help with ideas of things to be grateful for? Everyone’s list will look a little different but here are some examples to get you thinking.
- Friends and family
- Cuddling your pet
- Pleasant weather
- Spending time in nature
- Your favourite music or movies
- A comfortable bed to sleep in
- Doing your favourite hobby
- Your education or career
- Access to clean drinking water
- A nice, hot shower
- The support of your healthcare professionals
- Reading a good book
- Your favourite food
- A conversation that made you smile recently
- The experiences that have shaped you throughout your life.
Remember, the more you practice the easier it will become to identify the things you are grateful for. With time, you will build the skills to use this technique to manage feelings of sadness and have a more positive outlook on life.
If you need support, talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.