Strategies for gratefulness and happier living

Q: Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the negativity of people around me and forget about the good things that are also happening. How can I ground myself and remind myself that life is also full of hope and good things?

A: It is the human condition to analyse and judge people and our experiences; and therefore, we are wired to be more “negative” than positive. So you are not alone in getting caught up in the negativity around you, as this is what our minds are geared for – just in case there is danger ahead.

You are already sounding positive and grounded in wanting to achieve an emotional balance where you can also focus on the good around you. If you continue to develop this skill, you will be working towards living a more fulfilling and happy life.

According to the Action for Happiness organisation, the 10 key aspects to happier living are:

  1. Giving – doing things for others
  2. Relating – connecting with people
  3. Exercising – taking care of your body
  4. Appreciating – noticing the world around you
  5. Trying Out – keep learning new things
  6. Direction – having goals to look forward to
  7. Resilience – finding ways to bounce back
  8. Emotion – taking a positive approach
  9. Acceptance – being comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning – being part of something bigger

One strategy you can start practicing immediately is “Three Good Things”. This exercise helps you to reflect on the things that you are grateful for, and encouraging a sense of appreciation for life – despite what life throws at you. Try the following:

  • To get started, put yesterday into your mind. On a piece of paper, write down three good things that happened. Even on a bad day, we should be able to find something that was good, perhaps something we might consider to be trivial
  • The good thing may be an event, a feeling, a thought or an action. Examples could be: “I enjoyed my sandwich today” or “I’m glad I bumped into Karen at the shops today as we got the chance to catch up” or “I’m grateful that I have a boss who listens to me and makes me feel important” or “I’m grateful that the supermarket queues were not too long today as it meant I could get home earlier to be with my children.”
  • The three good things can be something that made you feel good or for which you are grateful
  • When you have written down three good things, try to then write why that “thing” was a good thing
  • Once you have completed this for yesterday, start to reflect on a daily basis and complete this activity at the end of each day

We know that grateful people tend to be happier people so taking some time at the end of your day to reflect on the positive aspects of your day helps to take the focus off the negative parts. In saying that, we cannot completely ignore negativity as sometimes we have to act on warning signs. This strategy is just a way to ground yourself and allow you the opportunity to assess what is important to you, every day.

If you would like to learn more about the keys to happier living, as well as learn more practical strategies, you can download the Action for Happiness pack at: www.actionforhappiness.org and click on the “Resources” tab.

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Tanya Russell Image
Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Counselling Team Leader and a registered psychologist.

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