What a crazy, surreal time it is for us all right now. Everything seems to be up in the air and its understandable and justified to feel overwhelmed and anxious wondering what the future will hold for you. The good news is that there are so many positive and uplifting news stories that can be hard to hear through all the noise, but they are there. And whilst this craziness goes on around us, there are little habits you can adopt to improve your own happiness and well-being in the process.
A grateful heart has been proven to have multiple positive benefits on our health including enhanced empathy, better relationships with others, improved self-esteem, more restful sleeps and improved physical health with fewer aches and pains reported (Psychology Today.)
Being grateful will make you more equipped to focus on what’s going right in your life. It will make you happier, healthier and able to build resilience. And being grateful will also help you to remember that this will eventually pass and make you much stronger because of it.
FIVE GOOD THINGS
Each day, for at least a week, write down five good things that you are grateful for. These could be things that went well for you, or things that you might suddenly be noticing during this time of isolation, that you are even more appreciative of.
Good things happen to us each day but in our busy lives we can be guilty of bypassing them. Allow this forced time of slowing down to really take notice of the little things. Whilst we can voice our thanks easily within our heads, putting pen to paper allows us to really think about each thing, and the reason we are grateful, and by doing so we magnify the benefits of this practice. By starting each day like this, you guarantee a positive start to each morning and reprogram your brain to have an upbeat world view, feeling more optimistic about what’s ahead. Similarly, by doing this right before bed, you allow your brain to think through all the amazing things that happened during the day, allowing you to drift off into a more peaceful sleep by thinking positive thoughts.
FOCUS ON WHAT’S GOING RIGHT
More often than not, we’re guilty of defaulting to the problems in our lives and focusing our attention on these. We don’t usually see the benefits of a situation right away and yet there is so much we can gain if we ask ourselves “what is going well?” instead. By doing this, we’re acknowledging that bad things happen to us and that we are faced with daily challenges. But, by shifting our attitudes to focus on what’s going well, we are also able to reflect on these challenges, process them and effectively work on our solutions.
By focusing on what is going right, we’re able to recognise the good in our lives, acknowledge the strengths we are possessing and feel calmer and at present with right now. Yes, challenges will arise. But, confirming the things that are going right will give you the confidence to know you will continue to handle what is thrown at you, as you are already proving to do that. This is something that is so quick, and simple, to do and is a practice that will become a natural way of thinking after a few weeks of flipping a situation in our minds. Next time you start to think, or feel, negatively about something, focus on what is going right and see the clarity it gives you.
EMBARK ON EXPRESSIVE WRITING
Probably one of my favourite things to do because of how uncensored and free flowing this practice is. Expressive writing doesn’t worry itself with punctuation, grammar or spelling. Instead, it allows you to express your thoughts, feelings and emotions in a way that will enable you to process and clarify these. Often it’s easier to understand how you really feel about something when putting feelings into words that aren’t going to be shared with anyone. Expressive writing also allows you to process these thoughts and feelings more effectively.
Over the years, expressive writing has been linked to better sleep, more effective coping, enhanced recovery from traumas and improved immune functioning by lowering stress (I) so it’s no wonder that it’s used as a healing practice in therapy. To ensure you reap the benefits from this writing habit, make sure you write continuously (without worrying about punctuation), write for your eyes only (by being completely honest), and allow yourself to reflect on what you have written.
KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Whilst the ‘five good things’ practice is great because it’s quick and easy to maintain daily, you might suddenly realise there are far more things than just five to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal enables you to write these down in a dedicated journal or notebook.
Attach this practice to a current daily habit like having a morning coffee, or reading before bed, so that you’re more likely to make it part of a routine and maintain the writing habit. By doing this, you’re more likely to view daily gratitude writing as a chosen activity, rather than another thing you need to get done on your list. By focusing on all the wonderful things in your life, big or small, you’ll see how much there actually is to be thankful for.
Use these little prompts to make journaling easier:
- What’s something you’re looking forward to?
- What did someone do for you that you are grateful of?
- What are you grateful to have today, that you didn’t have a year ago?
- What accomplishment are you proud of and why?
- What trait makes you unique that you’re grateful for?
- What skill(s) are you grateful for?
- Write about something you achieved today.
- What learning experiences are you most grateful for?
- Write about a friend, or relative, that you are grateful to have.
- Write about why you are grateful for your house.
- What book(s) have you read that you’re grateful for?
- Look around you and write what you are grateful for.
- Look outside and write what you are grateful for.
- Think of your possessions and write about three you couldn’t live without, and why.
- Write about five things you’re grateful for today.
It’s important to remember that right now will pass, we will get through this together and come out stronger. In the meantime, listen to health advice where necessary but load up on positive news. Take care of your mental health by connecting with loved ones via phones/skype, participate in the millions of wellness videos available to us online, get outside in nature (if able), curl up with a much loved book, guilt-free binge that box set, learn a new skill, check on a local neighbour that can’t get out, bake a new recipe with those cupboard essentials you stocked up on, seek out joyful moments and practice gratitude!
Rather than focusing on the uncertainty of the situation, let’s remember there are always some positives to be had. Let’s enjoy this slower pace and the things we are still able to do, and remember this won’t last forever.