It’s really hard sometimes to remember everything I have in life that I can be grateful for, and I think a lot of people are probably the same. Until I started CBT at the beginning of the year for my Anxiety and Agoraphobia issues, I didn’t realise just how negative I could be about things. I’d wake up in the morning usually and feel dread about the day ahead for whatever reason, and if you start your day off with that mindset it’s generally how the day is going to go. CBT is essentially retraining your brain – it’s shifting your mindset from one thing to another, and when practiced over time the new mindset should become your natural way of thinking.
If someone told you to write down a list of all the things in your life that you’re grateful for, you’ll probably find that it’s surprisingly difficult. It’s difficult because it’s not a natural thing to do – by nature we take the things in our life that we have for granted, and focus solely on what we don’t have. This is why we experience emotions like depression, jealously, anxiety etc. At no point in your life has anyone told you sit down and write the good things in life, and the chances are no one you know does it either- it’s just weird.
The first time I wrote my list, I found it so hard. I just couldn’t think of what things I had to be grateful for, and when you’re in such a negative frame of mind it’s no wonder that the day ahead is so full of anxieties and worry. Once I started writing, however, I realised that all these things were the basics. The were the basics about how I live and the type of person I am, and instantly I felt stupid for not realising these things and indeed taking them for granted. It takes some serious practice, but since I started and finished CBT at the beginning of the year the first thing I’ve done everyday is read this list. Before I can make an assumption about the day ahead, I start it off looking at all the things I do have that I am grateful for. Now, I’m not saying I feel great instantly or that my way of thinking has changed – it hasn’t. That would be like someone coming to me for a piano lessons having never played before and saying they want to be able to play Bach by the end of the session – it’s just impossible. But, with practice, slowly I’ve noticed changes in my thinking.
1. I have a roof over my head with heating and hot water
2. I have a job
3. I have money
4. I own possessions
5. I have good physical health
6. I have family
7. I have friends
8. I have had an education
9. I have ambitions for the future
10. I am a morally good person
11. I am thoughtful and caring
12. I am kind to others
13. I play six instruments
14. I speak seven languages
15. I have travelled all over the world
16. I have lived in three different countries
17. I am independent
18. I care about the environment
19. I am in control of my own life
20. I have people that care about me
That’s just some of the items on my list, it now goes up to 41. These first 20 points are the big things in life, the ones that were most difficult to think of at first, but slowly over time and the more I have practiced this exercise I have began to note the smaller things in life that I’m grateful for. For example like #27 I like the taste of coffee first thing and #35 I enjoy the sound of grass being cut. It’s the little things sometimes, and these are the things that are so easily overlooked.
Doing this regularly has helped change my thinking in my life and specifically in my daily routine. Instead of waking up and focussing on what I don’t want to do or what I’m worried about, I can be thankful for all I do have. Now, if you know me on a personal level you will be well aware of my life motto which is “It’s all relative”. I don’t believe in comparisons and I don’t think they’re healthy, but it’s so hard not to compare yourself to others for better or worse sometimes. The way that I try to counter these thoughts is by thinking of an inanimate object and the perception of others about it. For example, I have a Kandinsky print in our house that I absolutely love but one of my best friend hates and she comments on how much she dislikes it every time she sees it. Yet, these two opinions don’t actually change the print- the print is what it is, we just have formed opinions on it that make it what it is to us. It’s neither beautiful or ugly, it just is what it is. So, I use that thought process for my day ahead – it’s neither good or bad, but what determines it’s outcome is my preconceived notion of it.
So, what all that being said – have a day of positive thoughts and the day will be positive back to you. Or, like Roald Dahl said: “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. “