Practicing gratitude positively impacts anyone. However, even with its physical and emotional benefits, the shift to a mindset of gratitude can be very difficult. Many of us have what’s called a negativity bias – meaning that our brain is hardwired to focus on the bad rather than the good. So, instead of being grateful for all the great things in our lives, we tend to dwell on traumatic experiences and expect the worst to happen. When your own brain is the one sabotaging you, being thankful just doesn’t come easy.
Follow these four hacks to refocus on the bright side and fight your bias:
1. Keep A Gratitude Journal — Or Don’t
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most common recommendations you’ll get if you look for tips to overcome your bias. You know the routine. At the end of every day, sit down at your desk and write three things you’re grateful for. For many people, keeping a journal works fine and does help them become more positive, but don’t panic if it didn’t work for you. First of all, we don’t all love to write. And second, if you are struggling with depression, writing things down at the end of the day, when all you want to do is sleep, can feel draining.
Two alternatives you can try instead are taking pictures or setting reminders on your phone. Collect pictures of anything that makes you happy. Beautiful sunsets, your puppy sleeping peacefully, a romantic date night, or a reunion with your high school bestie. All of these things are great reasons to be grateful. And if you don’t like writing about them, take a picture instead. Setting reminders is a way to get prompts about things you’re thankful for. Have your phone remind you of a positive thing that happened. Or about someone in your life you are so happy you have.
2. Go On A Digital Detox
Social media can be great, but sometimes it becomes a bit too much. If you already tend to see the negatives, scrolling every day through perfect depictions of someone’s life (although we all know they’re not always real) can make you feel like you’re not good enough. Taking a break from social media, even for a couple of days, can help. It won’t be easy at first. But eventually, you’ll see that removing unrealistic comparisons will help you be more grateful.
3. Say Thanks To Someone Every Week
Are we surrounded only by amazing, inspiring, supporting people? Of course not. There will always be a stressful parent, an annoying co-worker, or a noisy neighbor around. But, try to ignore the bastards that grind you down by focusing your attention on the people who make your day better.
Every week, single out one or two people who you are grateful for and thank them. Contact a flower delivery service and send them a nice bouquet of roses, or just say thank you for making your day better. You’ll brighten up their day — the world needs that kind of positivity.
4. Focus On The Positives In A Negative Situation
Often when we’re a negative situation, we let ourselves drown in it and don’t see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. But focusing on that one negative thing can make you develop a tunnel vision where you ignore all the other good things in your life. Instead, whenever something doesn’t go your way, think of two other benefits you could gain in the long run.
Was your connecting flight canceled? Instead of staying angry, think of it as an opportunity to go sightseeing and discover a city you wouldn’t have visited otherwise. Will it always work? Of course not. But by doing this exercise you’ll see that most of your problems aren’t really bottomless pits. They’re part of life and they can help you in some way.
These are meant to be simple tools to help you become more grateful but don’t be upset if your mindset doesn’t change overnight. Don’t be too hard on yourself. All of these exercises take time, but if you’re consistent, you’ll slowly learn to overcome your negativity bias and each day will be a little brighter.