Do you ever practice gratitude and think to yourself, “this is weird? Like seriously, how did I arrive at a place in life where I’m kneeling at the end of my bed with the hands in prayer position desperately wracking my brain for shit to be grateful for?” Or maybe it’s just me!
Being grateful is a state. Therefore, practicing gratitude is an action to embody that state — I think. Let’s just go with that. Regardless, it’s far better than being pissed off. Most who practice gratitude are doing so because somewhere along the road — shit went wrong. Either that or they’re the proud owner of a higher conscience. Fuckers.
For me, it was the former. If my life had gone remotely as planned, I doubt very much you’d find me at the end of my bed giving thanks for Brussel Sprouts because it wouldn’t be necessary. I would be gloriously ignorant to the pitfalls of anxiety, and therefore, I wouldn’t give a fuck. But I’m not, so I do give a fuck.
It’s not that I’m ungrateful for all I have, it’s just like most, I take it for granted, and thanks to the brains hardwired negativity bias which is an absolute prick, it’s easy to fixate on all that is shit — like The Daily Mail, and Nazis — and forget all that is good.
A quick google search for gratitude will throw up a ton of cheesy-ass quotes for all to devour and feel warm and fluffy inside. I think Fred says it best:
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”— Frederick Keonig
Attaboy, Fred. While most could argue there are a few things they could get their hands on that wouldn’t hurt, once our basic needs are met, he’s actually right. The problem is that industries — including personal development — don’t profit from our being content. The engine runs on fear, and the solution is always happiness. Two fleeting emotions form the pendulum in which this motherfucker we call life, swings. And it’s important to form a healthy relationship with both, which statistics will tell you is proving more and more difficult.
You can thank Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays for this. Bernays was the master in shaping consumer culture from a “needs” to a “want” society. And unfortunately today, the Internet makes spreading this virus easier than ever. As a result, the number of those suffering from chronic stress, anxiety and depression continues to soar.
How much of your stress comes from focusing on that which you don’t have? For most, it’s a lot. And because of this and our trigger-happy amygdalas, most stand to benefit greatly by paying homage to the good shit we have in our lives while removing some of that laser focus we have for the bad. And as weird as practicing gratitude may be — and it is weird — it actually works.
But don’t take my word for it. Science very much backs this up. According to Psychology Today, gratitude has many benefits such as:
- Opening the door to more relationships (maybe exercise caution with this one!).
- Improves physical health.
- Improves psychological health.
- Enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Helps you sleep better.
- Improves self-esteem.
- Increases mental strength.
Clearly a better option than focusing on all that we don’t have, there aren’t many people — naughty or nice — who’d be pissed at Santa for stuffing that combo in their stocking this year. And it literally just takes a minute or two out of your day. Whether you write or internalize it — it doesn’t matter. Believe it or not, I actually kind of pray. Well, I say pray because it makes me sound all holy, but what I’m really doing is having a conversation with the voice in my head where I basically tell him I’m grateful for, you know — family, friends, air, water, a good dump, tasty food, the fact that I live by the ocean, matching a ladyboy on Tinder, whatever it may be. If I can put forward an argument — you better believe I’m giving thanks.
Now, I’d be lying if I said it always ran smoothly, the voice in my head can be an absolute prick who’ll ridicule many a case, but eventually we’ll both feel pretty good for our efforts.
And here’s where the magic happens: if you put your mind to it for just a few minutes each day — even if you’re dealing with a complete asshole — you’ll be surprised at just how much you have to be grateful for and that which you take for granted. As a result — life just gets a little easier, and the grass a little greener. And in those moments where stress can become all-consuming, you might just spot a field — or something shit like that — and think to yourself, “Jesus, that’s amazing.”
It’s not the most difficult habit in the world to implement, but because it doesn’t change lives in an instant, and we live in a world driven by instant gratification, it helps to know a little about the science of habit to ease the burden. To help you form a habit out of it, I challenge you to 30-days practice. It doesn’t matter how or how long for, just commit to giving thanks in some shape or form. And if you miss a day, no biggy, just don’t miss the next.
Reward plays a fundamental role in habit forming so instead of doubling down on the whiskey, make a 30-day chart so you can strike off everyday you complete the task with a big fat X — or a fucking gold star if you prefer that — to celebrate your progress and help you gain momentum.
Think how bad habits compound and cause a shit storm overtime — this is the polar opposite. And a brilliant means for forming habits regardless of what they are because you celebrate your progress along the way.
I am by no means a master at life, but I sure as shit know a few things that can drastically help improve outlook for anyone suffering from anxiety, panic attacks or the associated depression, and this just happens to be one of them. So why not take the challenge for yourself, and see what impact it has on your life.
Please note: This is a tool. Emphasis on the word “tool” in a non-derogatory manner. For anyone in the trenches of an anxiety disorder, while it is no doubt beneficial, to really address the problem, deeper work will be required.
FREE TRAINING: How To Transform Anxiety and Stress Into Resilience and Mental Strength
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Originally posted on nickycullen.com