It’s easy to focus on all the negatives in life, in fact it’s what we are programmed to do. It’s part of our drive for self-preservation. It helps us to identify and avoid situations that maybe undesirable or dangerous. The problem however is that constantly focusing on things we perceive to be negative eventually leads to a pretty miserable existence.
One of my favourite exercises for creating a more positive outlook and happier disposition is using a gratitude list. It’s simple, takes little time and can really change how you view the world around you in a matter of weeks.
To start you just need to set aside 5-10 minutes each day. This can be whilst you are driving to work, standing in a queue, cooking a meal or any other time you can have 5 minutes of uninterrupted thought. For me it’s whilst walking my dog. During this time consider all the things you are grateful for in your life. I tend to group things to make it easier. I start at a high level i.e. being alive and being born a country where all my basic needs (food, water, shelter, healthcare and social security etc.) are all met with little effort on my part. If I’d been born in one of the world’s many slums then these needs would either be a daily struggle or distant dream.
My list then moves closer to home. I consider my personal health, abilities and general attributes before moving on to my family and friends; all the many ways they support me and bring joy into my life. And lastly I appreciate all the material things I have in my life. This last bit is important because although material possessions don’t usually bring long-term happiness, by regularly appreciating what you have you curtail the desire to have more. You will start to enjoy the things you already have and fret less about the things you don’t.
There are many ways of appreciating the things on your list and this is something personal to your own beliefs i.e. thanking god. For me, I just think the words ‘I really appreciate …’ before saying the thing I’m grateful for. With a bit of practice you’ll be amazed how long your list becomes and in 3-4 weeks (perhaps less) you’ll be surprised how much more happier and content you feel.