Gratitude is the attitude to cultivate for true success and joy in life. One of the major deterrents to accomplishing what we want in life (whether that is joy and happiness or occupational success) is negative thinking. Cognitive-Behavioral psychologists know that the things we focus our attention on will tend to increase while what we ignore or neglect tends to decrease. Therefore, when we continue the pattern of negative thinking in our lives we unwittingly create more negativity in our lives. Conversely, when we teach our mind to focus on abundance/joy/positive experiences, we naturally begin to create these things in our lives.
For many, this is a challenge because we have conditioned ourselves into automatically having a negative response to many of everyday life situations. For example, we get stuck in traffic on the way to work and our mind begins rallying, “I’m going to be late again…This always happens to me…Why does my life have to be this way etc…” These thoughts can begin firing before we are even aware of them leaving us feeling despondent, anxious, and frustrated. These types of automatic negative thoughts are often a maintaining factor in anxiety and depression, but can also be a contributing factor in other life obstacles such as procrastination, low motivation, and a failure to live out one’s own potential.
For these reasons I often recommend that clients begin keeping a gratitude journal. I suggest to clients that every day they take the time to write down at least 3-5 things that they are grateful for that day, it doesn’t matter how big or small the item on the list. The purposes behind this suggestion are multifold. For one, by taking the time to focus on positive aspects of our life we begin to feel better. In addition, having a specific task helps us to actively participate in changing our thinking, rather than having a general idea of just thinking more positively, that we tend not to act on because we don’t have enough direction to change our old habits of thinking. Most importantly, this is a form of reconditioning the mind. If we take the time every day to consciously retrain the mind to focus on the positive aspects of our lives we will begin to recondition our neural pathways to create stronger connections to recalling positive events and focusing our attention on prosperity and abundance rather than what we are lacking. Recent studies have demonstrated how repeated behaviors create neural superhighways that cause us to behave in automatic ways. However, studies are also showing how malleable the brain is. In order to create new habits we need to regularly practice the behaviors or thinking patterns we want to achieve. Therefore, creating a daily practice provides us with the repetition needed to recondition our brain and our old patterns of being.
So, what are you grateful for today?