"What we see depends on what we look for." --John Lubbock
For the month of April, the skill I would like to describe is Gratitude Journaling. First, the rationale behind the practice. If we look for things that are going right, we tend to find more of them. The opposite is true as well--if you look for all that is going wrong, you'll easily be able to generate a long list. It is a bit of a challenge for most of us to look for what is going right but when we do, the more often we do, the better we get at seeing all that is going right. To follow this logic, then, when we look for what is going wrong, we feel terrible, hopeless, helpless, frustrated, depressed. When we look for what is going right, though, we feel the opposite: happy, grateful, satisfied, content, peaceful.
There are a few ways to engage in this practice. My recommendation is every day to write down at least 3 things for which you are grateful, that are going right, or that you're happy about. You could write it in a word document on your computer, on a list on your smartphone, or the old-fashioned way-- in a notebook or on a pad of paper. The benefit of writing down your gratitudes is that you can refer back to them when you're having a particularly difficult time coming up with things to be happy about. As mentioned above, once we start looking for the good, we tend to see more and more of it. If you don't believe me, try this exercise right now. Look around the room you are in at this moment and count all of the items that you see that are black. Done? So how many things did you see that were white? Its not entirely fair, I'll grant you that. If you now look around the room again, you'll likely find lots of things that are white because you're looking for them now! They were there all along, you just weren't paying attention to them before!
Ways to practice this skill
Spend a few minutes after you've climbed into bed and are preparing to go to sleep, to list in your head the things for which you are grateful. Its a great way to end the day on a positive note and encourage restful sleep.
Spend a few minutes before you get out of bed in the morning listing all of the things for which you are grateful to start the day off in a positive way. This also helps center your mind on what is truly important.
When you're waiting for something: in line at the grocery store, at your child's karate practice, at the doctor's office, etc. jot down or mentally note things for which you are grateful. This tends to reduce anxiety and stress about the event itself or the waiting for the event to begin!
When you catch yourself complaining about something, notice it and see if you can think about something that you're grateful for instead. For example: "Ugh. I hate this traffic!" might become "I'm grateful for the fact that I have a car, am in a safe environment and have lots of things around me that help me be more comfortable while I wait in this traffic" or "I am grateful for the time I have to spend thinking about all the things for which I am grateful!"
Give gratitude journaling a try beginning in this new month and see how it positively affects your overall mental health!