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Practicing Gratitude

You woke up to a cold room and realized your heater has decided to kick the bucket. One week ago you found out that your company might be undergoing a merger. And, it turns out that the mole on your spouse’s back might not be harmless after all. This is all on top of all of the other bad news in the world. It’s only understandable that so many people are having trouble practicing gratitude and positivity amidst such chaos, but that makes it more critical than ever.

How Habituation Affects Practicing Gratitude

If you are shaking your head at the thought of trying to find anything positive about your situation currently, you aren’t alone. The cognitive researcher Rick Hanson found that brains have trouble automatically recognizing the good in a situation for two reasons. First, in a positive situation, there typically isn’t a stimulus to grab your attention. Without fear, a threat or something out of the ordinary, it’s easy not to notice. Second, the human brain filters out everyday occurrences in a process called habituation. That means that good things, like how awesome your daughter’s hugs are, and mildly annoying things, like the flicker of the light in the kitchen, are part of your baseline. While habituation is a practical thing, it can mean that all of the wonderful things happening on a daily basis are lost in the shuffle.

How Do You Notice the Good?

To counteract habituation and start noticing the good in your everyday life, you need to shift your perspective. One of the best ways to start doing so is by practicing gratitude and finding facts in your current life, personal qualities, recent successes and the past that make you feel hopeful. A “good” thing can be just about anything, from the perfectly-toasted bagel you had for breakfast to the college degree you earned a decade ago. 

If You’re Still Struggling

If you’re having trouble practicing gratitude and finding positivity in your everyday life, don’t take it personally. Instead, experiment with different techniques and see what works for you. Some of the best ways to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude include:

  • Writing down 2-4 things you are thankful for in a journal every day.
  • Send a thank-you email or do one random act of kindness once a week.
  • When you find yourself slipping into negative thought patterns, challenge your thinking. How could you view what happened in a positive light?
  • Even meditating for only 7 minutes at a time can improve your mood, decrease stress levels and improve sleep.

Improve Your Mindset 

If you are struggling to find the good in these turbulent times, you are not alone.  Reach out to the CBT experts at CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to speak with you and help.