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How Gratitude Can Increase Positivity

Build a gratitude practice to cope with negativity

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We often can’t avoid negativity in our personal lives and the world around us. On top of our personal struggles, we also scroll through news and social feeds for stories about the latest disaster, disagreement, or drama, which add to our stress and worry. One way to cope with the negativity we encounter every day is by incorporating gratitude into our lives.

This activity will:

  • Share the mental, physical, and interpersonal benefits gratitude can have on one’s life;
  • Provide strategies on how you can build a gratitude practice to cope with negativity.

Gratitude has many benefits. Research has shown that gratitude, when practiced regularly over an extended period of time, can:

  • Help diminish depressive symptoms, lower anxiety, and form resilience;
  • Increase empathy, self-esteem, and happiness;
  • Reduce restlessness, increase energy, and improve overall functioning;
  • Support better and longer sleep;
  • Improve relationships by increasing key elements to deeper bonds such as appreciation and vulnerability.

So, how can you practice gratitude to cope with negativity and challenges? 

  1. Reframe and challenge your automatic thoughts

Be aware of your negativity bias. We all tend to have a thought pattern of weighing negativity more than positivity. To combat the negative go-to thoughts, intentionally seek out the positive. Try taking a step back. Pause. Then, switch your perspective to identify what you can be grateful for in each situation, no matter how big or small. (Feeling stressed about work? You can intentionally acknowledge that you are lucky to have a job that keeps you financially stable. Missing someone? How about thinking, “I am so lucky to have someone I care about?”)

  1. Give yourself time and space to worry and be grateful

Practicing gratitude does not mean ignoring the bad in your life. Bad things happen, but providing a more accurate depiction of the scenario can help reduce the spiraling of negative emotions. Give yourself time to think and worry—it’s OK to feel worried, or angry, or frustrated about a particular situation. 

If you find yourself dwelling too much on what’s worrying you, try setting aside “Worry Time.” Notice how long you’re spending worrying about a particular situation. Then, spend the same amount of time noting things you can be grateful for to counteract the negativity.

  1. Make gratitude part of your daily routine

Being authentically grateful is hard. To build a sustainable gratitude practice, make it a part of your daily routine. There are several ways you can do so, but here are some suggestions:

  • Start your day by spending five minutes (or more) setting daily intentions centered around gratitude.
  • Have gratitude check-ins during the tough times of your day. You can set alarms throughout the day to reflect back on your intentions and to acknowledge the positive parts of your day so far. 
  • Keep a memory jar to note things that went well, things you’re grateful for, and happy moments from the past. Choose a memory from the jar to read anytime you’re having a tough time. 
  • Reflect on the positives at the end of the day. Journaling or mentally noting what went well before bed can help promote better sleep.
  1. Send gratitude outwards for greater results

Expressing appreciation for others reaps greater benefits and can help build stronger relationships than practicing gratitude internally. Get creative in the ways you show meaningful appreciation to others. Write a letter to someone you’re thankful for, plan a surprise, or even just verbally express your appreciation to someone.

  1. Practice forward-thinking gratitude 

Some days, practicing gratitude in the present can be hard. During those times, try creating moments to look forward to that you know you will be grateful for, such as scheduling a movie night for yourself, playing a game you’ve been wanting to, hanging out with a friend, and so on. Reflect on what excites you about that moment.