For many of us, staying positive about our jobs, finances and day-to-day outlook can be difficult, even a chore. It is easy to look at others who are wealthier, or have more status and get caught up in negativity. Changing our outlook from that kind of attitude can be difficult. But during the month of Thanksgiving, it is worth thinking of how to feel gratitude. According to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Here is a simple suggestion of where to begin.
First, we must be keenly aware of the good things in our lives. Maybe they are big, maybe they are small, but pulling out one moment, or one good thing from our work day and really taking notice, is a place to start.
Keeping track of these things will accumulate into a larger sense of gratitude and positivity. So, start a gratitude journal. Write one or two things in your journal everyday that you are grateful for.
Some tips for writing:
• Be specific. You might get stuck and write down “I am grateful for my co-workers,” but specificity will help in the long run. Example, “I was grateful when my boss told me I handled a situation well today.” Or, “I had a great laugh with my co-worker about a story he told me.” This way you can look back through your journal in the future and remember these moments.
• Focus on emotions and relationships and more than physical things. While it’s possible to be grateful for a new toy, such as a phone, material items rarely create a more positive outlook long term. Being aware of the positive relationships in our lives does more. Likewise, you could be grateful for the view on the drive to work, a brilliantly sunny day, an impromptu dance party you had with your kids—these are emotional experiences that foster joy.
• Don’t be overambitious. Just try to write down one or two things a day. More may only dissuade you from opening the journal at all.
• Stay positive. Don’t write down the bad thing that happened. Choose to keep your journal positive. Researchers have compared subjects who have written about the positive versus subjects who have kept track of the negative, and found that those who concentrate on the good cultivate a more positive attitude in their life overall.
• Look back once in a while. Check out what you’ve written after a month. Maybe you have more to be thankful for at work than you first realized.
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted,” said writer Aldous Huxley. So why not start a new trend this year; a move towards gratitude? You might just be thankful you did.
By Erin Altemus