Mental Health, Wellness Toolbox

Wellness Toolbox: Gratitude Lists

So hear me out, then if you want to throw rocks go ahead. Yes, there is currently a global pandemic going on, the economy is kind of in shambles, and things are still plenty bleak for billions of people and I am not discounting that fact. But lets step out of that box and into one with more windows and maybe even a fireplace, if you so choose. Being happy for what you have doesn’t negate the bad things, it enhances your experience of those circumstances.

In my experience, gratitude was one of the more difficult practices for me because I was always hinging my happiness on “when“. When I got that job, when I got a significant other, or when my circumstances changed. And once they did, the joy of them was practically gone because I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t stopping and appreciating what life was handing me. So what changed? Well, despite my stubborn streak, I had a therapist who would end every session with gratitude. I had to list one to three things that I was grateful for every session for six months, and our sessions met once a week. Eventually it became easier, but in the beginning it was hard, even a little emotionally draining, it was like working a muscle that I never used before. Now it’s easy, I can think of so may things I am currently grateful for, like WiFi and my loved ones.

Why is this a good idea?

It makes you think about what’s important. prioritizing new things can lead you to new places mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. Look at minimalists, they prioritize experiences and people over physical objects and many of them find joy.

What’s the worst thing that comes from it? happiness in the now, mindfulness, and a better attitude: how overrated! Just kidding of course, but if you really do think it’s a waste of time then maybe you should talk to someone like a therapist or a friend.

It slows you down. You have merely 24 hours. 8 for work, 8 for sleep, and another 8 for eating, commuting, thinking work, finishing about those emails in your inbox, and watching YouTube videos. In that day, taking 3-5 mins to consider what your grateful for aside from your current level of output can be a good thing.

It helps you practice your empathy. Imagine how people feel who don’t have some of your ideal givens in life? like people who don’t have a family or one that cares about them, good health or a roof over their head. I know that when I came out to my mom, I was lucky that she didn’t kick me out at 15, not everybody who does has that as their given.

How often should I be making these gratitude lists? And how long do they have to be?

I suggest you start small. Try three things your grateful for today. Not when you get them or if you get them, but now with what you already have and are grateful for.

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