It is said that if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world, so why do we find it easier to be negative rather than positive?
The answer is, negativity is a habit, and as we all know, habits are hard to break.
In this article, I am going to show you how to practice gratitude in 19 easy ways, so that you will be able to recognize the abundance of blessings you already have, and turn any perceived negative into a beautifully positive one. It’s all a question of perspective.
1. “My House is a Mess”
Do you get annoyed at crumbs left on the countertop, socks on the floor, and dog hairs on every carpet? Sure, these things can be irritating until you reframe your thoughts into gratitude, instead. For instance:
- Crumbs on the countertop mean that you have food in the house, and that is definitely something to be thankful for. Poverty exists, not only in third world countries but right here at home, too, so seeing the remnants of food preparation means that you and your family have eaten that day.
- Socks on the floor are going to belong to someone else – a partner, or children – because if they were yours, they wouldn’t irritate you…you’d just pick them up, right? So instead of sighing loudly, offer up silent thanks that you are not alone and that you have family around you.
- Dog hairs on the carpet can drive even the most placid of people crazy, but just pause for a moment, and imagine what life would be like without your dog. No frenzied wagging at the door when you come home, no soft head laying in your lap while you’re watching TV, and no company on your daily walks. So instead of being annoyed, just look into those doggy eyes and give them a big hug, instead.
2. “The House is Too Noisy – I Want Some Peace and Quiet”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of solitude every now and again, but when the hustle and bustle of family life start to get you down, change your thought process to one of gratitude, like this:
- They may be noisy kids but they’re my noisy kids and I’m so thankful they’re here
- One day they will grow up and leave home and I will wish they were still here, making all this noise
- I am thankful my husband is at home with me, even if he is playing on his games console a little too loudly
- I am so grateful to hear my wife singing all the time, it means she’s happy.
3. “There’s No End to This Laundry”
A familiar complaint, because no sooner has the hamper emptied than it’s filling up again. But here’s the thing – having lots of washing to do means that your family has plenty of clothes to wear. That means that you have enough money to buy those clothes. It also means they are warm and dry and clean – something that so many people are not. Change your thoughts to ones like these and that laundry will take on new meaning for you.
4. “I Wish My Family Would Clean the Bathroom After Themselves”
Yep, it can be annoying when you go into your previously sparkling bathroom and find soap suds in the basin, or beard hairs stuck to the tiles, but look at it this way:
- You have a family, and that alone is enough to be deeply grateful for
- They’re using the bathroom, which means you have plumbing and heating and running water, and that is indeed a privilege
- Everyone smells nice!
Okay, so that last point might seem a little flippant, but this exercise is to show you how to find the positives in any situation. It isn’t about letting other people off the cleaning hook, but rather it’s a way to practice gratitude which will change the way you feel.
But what about more serious problems? Life goes far beyond niggles about noise and mess, after all. Let’s look at a few more.
5. “My Car Has a Flat Tire”
That sinking feeling when you are just about to get in your car, only to notice a flat tire, will be familiar to many of us, and it usually happens when we’re in a hurry.
But think about this: what if it had happened as you were driving down the freeway? Imagine if it had blown out with your kids in the car. Suppose you were driving near a school when it happened, and your steering went, meaning you hit a small child as they crossed the road.
When you think like that, a flat tire on your driveway is a small thing that is easily fixed, and your boss/lunch date/doctor will understand – it can happen to the best of us. Plus, it gives you time to have an extra coffee, and that’s definitely something to be grateful for.
6. “My Relationship Has Just Ended and I’m So Hurt”
Love hurts, for sure, but where would we be without it? Seeing the positives in a relationship ending doesn’t mean you are minimizing the situation, it just means that you are finding the silver lining, and there is always one to be found.
- I will be stronger because of this
- I will take the lessons I have learned from this relationship and apply them to my next one
- I know what to avoid when I start dating again
- Boy, that was a lucky escape!
Even when things become more serious still, and situations seem dire, there are ways to frame things that can tweak the mind so that you don’t fall into a pit of despair.
7. “I’ve Been Diagnosed With a Serious Illness”
While it’s true that a serious diagnosis can be one of the most earth-shattering things you can hear, many people manage to find a positive, once they have processed the news. In fact, studies have shown that positive thinking can help patients in their fight because it strengthens the immune system. 1
But you may be wondering ‘where on earth are the positives in serious illness? Actually, you don’t have to look too hard:
- Life is precious, so I am going to make the most of every day
- I can help others through my empathy and understanding
- I notice the beauty in the world around me
- I am going to spend quality time with the people I love
- I won’t sweat the small stuff, because I’ve realized that those things just don’t matter anymore
- My illness has forced me to slow down, and that’s a wonderful thing
8. How Do I Deal With a Bereavement?
Losing someone you love is devastating, there are no two ways about it. But by looking for the positives, you will be able to smile through your tears and celebrate the life they had, rather than mourn the one they lost.
If it is your partner, offer thanks for having lived a great love. If it is a parent, feel gratitude for the fact that he or she shaped you into the person you are today. Whoever it is, if your loss hurts, it is because of deep love, and that love is definitely something to celebrate and remember with thanks.
Now that we have looked at some situations and how to turn negatives into positives, let’s look at some ways which will enable us to do that more easily.
9. Turn ‘I’m Worried’ into a ‘So What?’
Worrying and thinking negative thoughts can really drag you down, but with a little tweaking, you can really turn things around. This simple technique is hugely effective, and once you’ve been practicing it for a few days, you will find it begins to come naturally.
Here are some examples:
- Are you worried that you didn’t give a good impression at that interview? So what? The worst that can happen is that you didn’t get the job, which will leave the door open for an even better one.
- Did you leave the water running in the shower? So what if you did? Okay, you’ll waste some water, but the water will run away down the drain and at worst you’ll go home to a steamy bathroom
- Do you think you said something stupid on that date last night? Well, if he is the kind of guy who drops you because of one less-than-brilliant remark, do you really want to go on another date with him anyway?
Try applying this to any situation in which you find yourself worrying, and see how much brighter things begin to look.
10. Apply Your Inner Lie Detector
We can besiege ourselves with negative thoughts, and until you train your mind otherwise, it can be easy to believe them.
The next time a negative thought comes to mind, stop, and question it. Examine whether it’s even true. Nine times out of ten you will find that the thoughts you’re thinking have no roots in reality, and once you realize that, they lose their power.
11. It’s Good to Talk
The mind can be an incubator for less-than-happy thoughts, and the more we keep them inside, the more traction they can gain. Getting those thoughts out, however, is a huge release and their power immediately begins to fade. Talking to friends and family is good, but it’s even better to talk to someone neutral, so if you are plagued by negative thoughts, consider booking a session with a therapist who will listen with impartiality.
12. Become Your Own BFF
Would you talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself? Most people wouldn’t, and yet we should be our own best friend, cheerleading from the side and making us feel better about ourselves.
Make an effort to become conscious of your own negative self-talk, because once you realize you’re doing it, you will find it much easier to stop it in its tracks.
13. Take Away its Power
Negative words carry a lot of weight and can be super damaging, whether they’re said to yourself or to someone else. Try changing your inner dialogue to take the sting out of the proverbial tail, and turn any situation around.
- “I hate this” is far more positive when it’s changed to “I much prefer”.
- “I can’t do this” can be changed to “This is a challenge”
- “I’m fat” can become “I’m going to eat more healthily”
By changing your language, you are spurring yourself to take action without any of the detrimental self-talk, and it works wonders.
14. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
If this sounds like a cliche, that’s because it is, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any value. Thinking in a non-positive way can make you feel tired, down, and lethargic, and before you know it you’re binging on Netflix and chocolate (which will only make you feel worse in the long run).
As soon as you feel those thoughts striking, get up, put on some music, and dance around the room. Be carefree, uninhibited, and happy. It’s impossible to feel negative when you’re getting your groove on, and it will also boost your blood circulation and release happy hormones. That’s a lot of positive benefits for one small act.
15. Surround Yourself With Positive People
If a negative thought is threatening to blossom in your mind, head it off by spending time with someone who is naturally happy. We all know at least one such person – the one who’s always singling, or wakes up in a brilliant mood, or only ever has something good to say about everyone.
By spending time with this kind of person, you will find it almost impossible to continue on your cynical path, and their enthusiasm for life will begin to rub off on you.
Even if you can’t be with them physically, give them a call, get a text conversation going, and immerse yourself in their sunny attitude.
16. Limit Your Exposure
The expression ‘misery loves company’ is such a true one because nothing pleases a pessimist more than having someone to commiserate life’s pits and downfalls with.
Go through your list of friends and family, and think about how you feel when you’re with them, or when you speak to them. We all emit a certain vibration, and those who are miserable operate on a lower frequency which will affect your own vibe – they will literally drag you down to their lower level.
While it may not be possible to avoid them completely, make sure your time with them is limited, especially when you are having your own negative thoughts.
17. Leave Love Letters
If your negative thoughts refer to yourself – for instance, your looks, your weight, your academic abilities – get into the habit of leaving yourself little inspirational notes where you know you will see them regularly.
- If you are critical about your body, leave a Post-It attached to the mirror you get dressed in front of. Write something inspiring, like ‘You are beautiful’, ‘You look fabulous’, or add a little humor, such as ‘No, your butt does NOT look big in that!’ The last one will raise a smile, and it’s hard to be down when you’re smiling.
- If you find it hard to get motivated for work and start every morning off thinking you’re going to have a bad day, write a message on your bathroom mirror. ‘This is a great day’ is a good one, or ‘One step closer to your dream’. It will implant positivity into your mind, even if you don’t realize it.
- If the drive to work fills you with dread, leave a reminder on your dash to enjoy the peace and quiet as you drive, or listen to a favorite album, or even better, a motivational podcast.
It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as it is uplifting and encouraging, and above all positive. The purpose is to replace pessimism with optimism, and once that seed is sown, it will continue to grow.
18. Choose Your Battles
We’re bombarded every day with situations that we may not enjoy, but it is up to us whether we engage in them or not. ‘You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to’ is a simple expression, but it’s so true, and powerful, too.
If someone is spoiling for a fight, either at home or at work, recognizing that you can walk away without engaging will prevent the unfavorable feelings associated with arguing from taking root.
19. What is This Teaching me?
A really easy way to turn a negative into a positive is to ask ‘what is this teaching me?’ rather than ‘why is this happening to me?’. That way, every ‘bad’ situation is automatically turned on its head. For example:
- I’m late for work again, why does this keep happening? Turn it around and you will see that perhaps it’s teaching you to set your alarm earlier, take a different route for work, or go to bed an hour earlier at night.
- Why is my job so boring? Perhaps it’s time to change your career, and the boredom is your mind’s way of telling you that the one you’re in just isn’t for you.
- How come all my relationships end after only 4 weeks? Perhaps the untimely demise of your love interests is down to the fact that you choose unsuitable dates, or appear too keen, or talk nineteen to the dozen because you’re so nervous.
Examining your own behavior will enable you to make the necessary changes to get the results you want.
The thing is, everything in life is either a lesson or a blessing, but by changing your mindset, you will see that the lessons can be the biggest blessings of all.