When I was in high school, I saw an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show where she recommended to her audience keeping a gratitude journal and each day writing in it three things for which you are grateful, and three things you want to improve about yourself. Back then I did this for a week or so, and then got bored with the idea and stopped. But a few years ago I was going through a rough patch in my life and picked the habit back up so that I didn’t drown in self-pity and negativity. I began to feel a small change in how I viewed myself and the world — I was kinder to both. I really focused more on the many wonderful opportunities, experiences and people in my life, instead of thinking about what I didn’t have or hadn’t accomplished. I also began to reframe my perspective about other people, trying to be less judgemental and more compassionate and understanding. I retrained my brain to look for the positive, kind thoughts in a given situation.
Again, I eventually stopped writing down my thoughts, but each night as I lay in bed thinking over my day, I mentally noted what made me feel grateful. Soon, I began to also tack on well-wishes for friends and family, and for people in need I saw on the street on in the news. One night, it suddenly dawned on me that what I was doing was essentially praying. Though I never really directed the thoughts to God, Jesus, Mother Earth, or the cosmic powers of the universe, I was focusing my thoughts on positivism and it was changing the way I felt. I’m certainly no saint and I’m not here to preach any kind of religion, but I am definitely a convert to the idea of optimism and gratitude changing the way we view ourselves and the world around us. Staying positive is one way I try to keep my life toxic-free. Because what’s the point of seeking out organic apples only to poison my mood with negativity? Scientific research show that people who are optimistic live longer and avoid more illness, so it’s clearly as important for our bodies as for our minds.
So if you’re going through a hard time, I encourage you to come up with three things every day that make you thankful. Sometimes it’s as obvious as a work promotion or successful relationship, and sometimes as inconspicuous as the warm weather or the smell of baking cookies. But if you start to actively recognize these gems in life, it may become habit and it will absolutely help you to see the silver lining on even the darkest cloud.