Each time we go about implementing a change in our lives we will at some point encounter obstacles. It's an inevitable and necessary part of the process - after all, nothing truly worth having in life comes easy.
When we come face to face with these challenges we have two options - we quit, or we find a way to overcome them. If we choose to push forward, we have other decisions to make - how effectively will we overcome the problem? How long will we procrastinate for before taking action? How much energy will we dedicate to finding a solution?
In a sense we can compare ourselves here to any object that requires power to function. In order for action to occur, we need fuel - in our case, we need a source of mental energy that can carry us through a challenging moment and allow us to continue progressing towards our vision.
When we are confronted with obstacles, our natural reaction is to think negatively. Negative thoughts are comforting to us in difficult times - they give us a free pass to fail. We can externalise blame to protect ourselves from feeling inadequate. Equally, we can assign ourselves with a label that makes the obstacle seemingly impossible to overcome. For example, we might label ourselves ‘too inexperienced’ or ‘not smart enough’ for the task at hand. Either way, we are giving ourselves permission to give up.
This kind of mental behaviour saps us of energy, meaning that no positive action can occur.
If we are to succeed, we need to choose a different path. We need to recognise our habitual tendency for negative thought and implement a powerful intervention.
One of the best ways to achieve this is through gratitude. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful, energy-giving emotion which allows us to rise above our negative thoughts. It’s very difficult to continue feeling negative when you are channeling your focus towards counting your blessings. What you focus on expands, and with practice your brain will build new neural pathways, making positive thought patterns more accessible.
Even in our darkest moments, all of us can find something to be grateful for if we look hard enough. We are connected to others, some of whom love and care for us deeply. We have unique gifts and talents that allow us our individuality. And we have a future, where anything is possible.
Here are 4 practical ways that we can bring gratitude into our lives.
- Become an expert at recognising negative thoughts when they enter your mind. When this happens, make a mental list of everything you are grateful for in that moment. By doing this, we reminding ourselves of all the incredible tools we have at our disposal in order to overcome challenges.
- Keep a daily gratitude diary. Studies conducted at the university of Yale show that keeping a gratitude journal will result in higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
- Express your gratitude to others. Make it a habit to say thank you to people more often. By articulating your gratitude and expressing it loud, you give it life. This powers up your positive energy, whilst simultaneously strengthening your relationships.
- Make gratitude part of your wake up routine. Before you open your eyes (or after you’ve switched off your alarm), list 5 things that you are grateful for. There is no better way to start your day on a positive footing.
These exercises flood the brain with positive energy, making action seem not only possible but inevitable. They help us to find strength in moments of weakness, and enable us to push ahead when before we would have given up.
So next time you feel yourself spiralling down a tunnel of negative thinking, give gratitude a chance and just see what you can achieve.