Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably been hearing everyone banging about “gratitude” as the heal all penicillin for the mind. It’s meant to help you perceive stuff – life, work, etc – in a more positive light. The idea is that too often we focus on the negative (which makes sense from an evolutionary point of view – it’s all about avoiding potential danger/problems) and don’t give the good the weight it deserves which then throws us out of balance.
Well here are my two cents.
I started doing a “gratitude journal” ages ago. My goal was to find three things to be grateful for every day. I started off with stuff like this:
“The weather was awesome today!” (just to clarify – in London good weather is a big deal)
“Colin gave me mini gnomes which fit perfectly under my desk plant”
“Tobey gave me some super ripe bananas = banana ice cream!”
Yep, it was a pretty sweet exercise and it did make me smile at the end of the day. But here’s the thing.
I think gratitude works a million times better when you target it against your inner demons.
Do you know what yours are?
Listen in. Every time you feel down – ask yourself “why?” and see what thoughts come to you.
“I didn’t do any exercise today”
“I skipped morning yoga”
“I didn’t prepare a blog post”
“I didn’t eat so well today”
“I didn’t prepare lunch for tomorrow”
“I went to sleep too late last night and now my energy levels are low”
“I haven’t been very productive today”
“I’ve been so productive I didn’t socialise at all”
“I’m a shit friend”
“I’m a shit girlfriend”
Stuff like that. Always on my mind. I admit the list doesn’t sound that traumatic, but when it’s in your head all the time – counting things you didn’t do or should have done or could have done better it can really get to you.
So if your biggest demon is self-criticism, focus your gratitude specifically on stuff that was led by YOU, i.e. “I’m grateful I did/achieved/tried this”. So I might have skipped morning yoga… but I’m grateful I prepared an awesomely healthy breakfast and I went for a swim and I called my parents. Stuff like that. But if your inner demon is about feeling unloved or lonely, then maybe try focusing on the nice gestures other people have made towards you. In other words, adjust.
And don’t wait until the end of the day to reflect on the good stuff you’ve done – slay the demon right there and then. When I catch myself thinking I didn’t do something I should have done or didn’t do it well enough or whatever, I counter it by thinking of all the things, no matter how small, that I did do right away. Think of negative thoughts like having too much chilli – you don’t wait until five hours later to calm it with a glass of milk.
It takes loads of practice to think more positively and I’m only just at the beginning of this journey, but if you start now and keep it up this time next year you will probably be a much happier person.
So what are you grateful for today? :)