The Power of Gratitude: How to Be Thankful No Matter What Life Throws Your Way
Today we live in a busy and chaotic society. We often over schedule our days with work, meetings, commutes, to-do lists, chores, and other responsibilities while we under schedule the people and activities that actually bring our lives real joy.
We wake up and start our days by looking at our cell phones and calendars and get an automatic sense of anxiety with all the activities we have to do in our day. When we turn on the news, we are immediately filled with negativity ranging from crime, unrest, and politics. After a while, the monotonous list of activities and the negative reports can become mind-numbing and create a sense of negativity within us.
There seems to be no real joy, everything is a chore, pleasure seems elusive.
Do you ever ask yourself if there's more to life than constantly being on the go, working, responsibilities, and negativity?
The harmful effects of negative thinking
All this negative energy coming our way and how we start to interpret the world can actually create mental and physical health issues disrupting our emotional state. This is clear by the high levels of anxiety and depression in the United States.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America published these facts about anxiety and depression on their website.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
In 2014, around 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year (6.7% of adults in the U.S.).* (National Institute of Mental Health)
How can we mitigate the effects of negativity in our lives and start to create more positive experiences?
The power of gratitude
There's great power in the lives of those that feel and express gratitude on a regular basis. Research shows that people that express their gratitude in the form of a gratitude journal or gratitude letters often experience psychological and physical benefits which include
Higher life satisfaction
Lower levels of anxiety
Lower levels of depression
Higher levels of emotional well-being
Lower levels of burn out
Lower levels of materialism
Lower incidents of inflammatory-related diseases such as cancer and heart disease
Increased immune function
Higher quality of sleep
Lower blood pressure
Further research shows that expressing gratitude can actually change the chemicals in the brain and is a natural antidepressant.
When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
How to live in true gratitude
We can change the effects of negativity by taking concrete actions to cut out the negative sources in our lives, reframing our negative thoughts, and expressing gratitude for what we have.
We all have them. Those people in our lives that challenge you to keep that smile on your face that you had when you walked into the room. Those people that do not bring the sunshine with them when they enter the room but instead a dark and heavy cloud. The people that are negative and cynical and have nothing positive to say. We also can turn the TV on and get a large dose of negative reports about crime, political fighting and social events that leave us feeling depressed, anxious and negative.
The best way to cut the negativity is to be selective about who or what comes into your home and into your mind. Here are some ways to reduce or cut the negativity you and your family are exposed to.
Reduce social media or block those people that post the divisive or negative posts
Eliminate social media altogether. There's such freedom to not being on social media and having to know what everyone is doing all the time.
Be choosy when watching television. Find shows that uplift you and make you feel positive and inspired.
Cut out watching news reports. The news today repeats the exact same report all throughout the day. Hearing the same report can create anxiety and a sense of fear.
Cut out news notifications on your phone. If the zombie apocalypse happens someone will call you or the emergency broadcast will go off but being bombarded with news reports can have the same effect as watching the news.
Eliminate or reduce the negative people in your life. I know this is a hard one, but if you can not cut someone out of your life then reduce your time around them. You will be much happier for it.