Life is not always easy. When we experience struggles and suffering, our psyche feels it too. Adverse events take a toll on our mental health and challenge our ability to cope; our inability to cope can get us stuck in a cycle of pessimism and constant stress. We will all experience darker, gloomier days throughout our lifetime. One of the most challenging things about being stuck under a “rainy cloud” for a period of time is figuring out a way to get out from underneath it. However, recognizing that you are stuck in a dark place and realizing that you’re ready to get out of it is the first step towards improving your mental health and outlook on life. Author Allison Aubrey explores practicing gratitude and how it can positively impact your mood and mental stability. This blog post will reflect on Aubrey’s article, From Gloom to Gratitude: 8 Skills to Cultivate Joy, and discuss different tools for overcoming stressful events and increasing joy in your life.
The author introduces the topic of cultivating joy by stating that we all experience gloomy periods at different times in our life. Aubrey then follows this up by stating that we can teach ourselves to overcome these harder days by practicing positivity. There are clear benefits to being more positive – Aubrey shares that having a more positive outlook can prevent anxiety and depression.
Aubrey then discusses a study that examined the impact of having a positive outlook during stressful life events. The results are significant, and developers of the study offer eight different skills that anyone can apply with the intention of improving their attitude, and therefore improving their overall mental health.
Skill #1: Take a moment to identify one positive event each day.
Reflect on your day and find one positive thing that happened. It can be something as simple as the walk you went on earlier, or having the ability to enjoy the nice weather outside. Whatever event brought you happiness during your day, recognize it and honor it.
Skill #2: Share your positive event with someone – this helps you savor the moment just a little bit longer.
Tell a loved one about your positive event. Maybe even ask them to share a positive event from their day with you as well. Sharing positive moments with the people we care about can make us feel more connected and brighten our spirits up.
Skill # 3: Start a daily gratitude journal.
Whether it’s on paper, in a notebook, or on your phone – start a daily log and reflect on what you are grateful for each day. Whether it is an experience you had, or someone you are particularly thankful for on that day, acknowledge it and reflect. Practicing gratitude cultivates happiness and reminds you of all that is good in your life.
Skill #4: Identify a personal strength and reflect on how you’ve used this strength today or in recent weeks.
You have strengths. Recognize them and think about how you utilized them recently.
Skill #5: Set a daily goal and track your progress. Make the goal realistic and attainable.
Your daily goal should be something that you know you will be able to reach. It can be a small goal that over time leads to a larger goal. Track your progress and reflect on any positive changes you notice from working towards your goals.
Skill # 6: Practice positive reappraisal.
Think about an activity that is more bothersome or annoying for you, such as doing the dishes. Reframe this activity into a more positive light – rather than being frustrated over having to clean all of the dishes, mindfully enjoy the task and think about how great it will feel to have completed it and have a clean kitchen and space.
Skill #7: Do something nice for someone else every day.
Daily acts of kindness can be simple, and research shows that we feel better when we are kind to others.
Skill #8: Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It is a complex practice that has many skills within it, including meditation and journaling. Take a moment to take several deep breaths and focus your attention to what is going on for you in that exact space. This is a good place to start practicing mindfulness and grounding yourself.
These eight skills are broad and varied so that you can get a feel for what practices will best suite your lifestyle. All of these skills guide you towards creating a positive mindset for yourself. If you would like more tools for becoming positive and improving your mental health, contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians today!