Many of us have a tendency to focus on the negative. Work is stressful, our commute is annoying, our family is frustrating — the list goes on and on. And this means it can be hard to be happy with what we have and grateful for the good things right in front of us.
If you find that you have a tendency to emphasize the negative in life, you're absolutely not alone. According to a study featured in Psychology Today, humans likely evolved to be worriers and to frame things in a less-than-cheery light. Psychology Today editor, Era Estroff Marano, clarified the findings, explaining that, "Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily most likely evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm's way. From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger [But} having the built-in brain apparatus supersensitive to negativity means that the same bad-news bias also is at work in every sphere of our lives at all times."
Basically, we're hard-wired to see the bad, which can sometimes make it difficult to see all the awesome things around us. If you've been feeling like you've been letting negativity get the best of you lately and are looking for ways to help look on the bright side, here are nine ways to be more grateful for what you have and start enjoying life more.
1. Use Social Media Wisely
In a piece for The Huffington Post, gratitude researcher and psychology professor Dr. Robert Emmons said, “[Thankful people] use whatever cues that exist in everyday environments to trigger grateful thoughts. Pictures and information on social media — that’s a very good way to do it.” So subscribe to social media accounts and channels dedicated to spreading positivity and good news. That way you'll be exposed to some positivity every time you plug in.
2. Get A Happy App
Did you know that there are actually gratitude and happiness apps for your phone that help remind you to stay grateful? Not only do they force us to think about the good things in life at least once a day, but they help get us in the habit of retraining our brains to do so without a daily reminder. Definitely check them out in your phone's app store if you're looking for a super easy way to start (and there are definitely some for free).
3. Make Time For The People You Care About
In a piece for Tiny Buddha, holistic life coach Lynne Goldberg stressed the importance of spending time with loved ones and people we care about — even when our schedules feel super packed. These are the people that often help bring us down to earth and remind us what's important in life. It's hard to feel unhappy when you're laughing with good friends and family.
4. Don't Over-Extend Yourself
This one's a personal tip. You know what makes it really hard to feel happy with the good things in life? Stress. It can be the difference between being able to look around and enjoy what you have and feeling like you're about to collapse under pressure. If you're feeling over-extended, try unloading a few things on your plate. Odds are it will become much easier to feel gratitude for the good stuff.
5. Reframe Your Perspective
This is another personal one. Sometimes when I'm feeling unhappy, I try to step back and think why. It is because a big project isn't going my way at work? If so, I try to remind myself that all in all I love what I do, and would still rather be doing this (road bumps and all) over anything else. Is it that your mom's driving you crazy with nagging? Remind yourself that it's actually kind of amazing to have someone in your life who cares about you enough to nag. These little tricks can make a huge difference.
6. Take A Moment To Be Grateful
In a piece on contentedness, founder of Zen Habits Leo Babauta recommended simply taking a single moment from whatever bad or unpleasant thing might be happening to think about something you're grateful for. "What in your life is amazing? Even if everything seems to suck, there must be one good thing. It might simply be that you have beauty somewhere nearby, or that you are alive, or that your kids are healthy. Find something, and give thanks for that."
7. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Babauta also stressed the importance of not comparing yourself to others. "We compare ourselves with the images in our head of perfection — movie stars, models in magazines, other people who seem to have it all together, and we can never measure up to those perfect images," he said. "But those images are not real. They are an imagined ideal. Even the people who seem successful, living exciting lives — they have the same self-doubts you have."
8. Get Specific
In a piece for Happify.com, life coach Derrick Carpenter recommended being specific when you think about what you're grateful for. Don't just think, "I'm grateful for family," but instead think,"I'm grateful that my partner remembered my favorite candy and brought some home for me, just because."
9. Get Moving
You're probably sick of hearing this, but there's a reason people say exercise makes us happier. According to a study featured on CNN, exercise causes our bodies to release serotonin, which is essentially our bodies' feel-good chemical. A brisk walk or jog will likely make it much, much easier to look on the bright side.
Being happy with what we have is an important thing to master. It's the difference between feeling good about our lives and feeling constantly dissatisfied. And the good news is there are absolutely ways to enhance your appreciation for the good things in life — you just have to want it!
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