Gratitude practice - how a simple daily habit can help dispel worry and stress

Gratitude practice - how a simple daily habit can help dispel worry and stress

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey

Like many there have been times when feeling challenged by life has led me to feeling low on a daily basis.  Health problems physical and emotional, for yourself, family or close friends are particularly hard to deal with.   Yet over the years I have discovered the only true antidote to this is practising gratitude daily.

Gratitude practice restores peace of mind when negativity threatens to destroy it.

One of the ways to perfect the art of gratitude is to take a moment, breathe deeply and focus what you have to be grateful for in that precise moment.  This can take down anxiety levels very quickly and give you the strength to move forward.   

A book I read by Oprah Winfrey, recommended keeping a gratitude diary, writing 5 things every day that you are grateful for.  It was really hard to do at first but this practice is truly transformative.  Not only do you start to see each day in a more positive way, you are also subconsciously defining what is important to you.  For example, spending time with loved ones was more important than a busy social diary.  This sounds as it should have been obvious but instead of automatically saying yes to everything I started thinking about what I really wanted to do with my free time.   You can keep a list on your computer, a journal or your phone.  It helps to do it at a set time every day, morning or night.  The changes were very small to start with but as I changed other things and people started to change too.  Experiences felt more positive and I went about daily life with a smile on the inside.

If you keep thinking negative thoughts then this leads to a downward spiral and a self-fulfilling prophecy.   You never have anything to look forward to, the negatives outweigh any positives, you compare yourselves to others unfavourably, you worry unduly.   Worry is our protection against things going wrong however it has taken me a long time to realise that the exact opposite is true.   If gratitude is practised this replaces the negative thoughts. 

Friends often talk to me about their problems and their struggles.  Trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones do not work as the negative thoughts feel like security against any other negative feelings or events.  For example if a friend says “I am worried about money and not having enough”  Simply pointing out that they do have money and the size of their bank balance will not dispel their worries.  Instead ask them to focus on gratitude each time they purchase an item, even a cup of coffee, when they look at their bank balance, when they look at their children and how money has been a useful tool in helping with their children’s upbringing.  Asking them to focus on that exact moment and what they are grateful for right then, helps to dispel the negative train of thoughts.

Feeling that you are connected to something larger than yourself is very powerful, many call this the Source.  With consistent practice you can summon a flood of feel good endorphins that replace the constant anxiety and worry leaving you feeling calm, stronger and mindful of everything you have to be grateful for.