Mindfulness and Gratitude - Two Ways to Take Care of Yourself in the Chaos of Life

Keeping healthy mental health habits is sooooooooo important. Because, let's be honest, life is super stressful sometimes. Hard things spring forth from nearly every aspect of our life --- from home, at work, politics, and everywhere else in between. These troubles cause us to spiral and can create thoughts that lead to excessive worry, stress, and anxiety.

Some problems may have simple solutions, while others are more complex. One thing's for certain: having an stressed state of mind doesn't aid in problem solving, it only increases our level of mental anguish.

Whenever we feel negative thoughts and emotions begin to be too overwhelming, the best thing we can do is take steps to calm it. Starting with seemingly small habits can lead to big changes in the way we think, what we feel, and ultimately how we approach life itself.

Unfortunately, calming the mind is a task that's easier said than done. It's even more difficult to do so when you're already caught in the throes of depression and anxiety. So its helpful catch ourselves before we begin the descent into a downward spiral.

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude are two simple habits we can form and include in our daily lives to help us attain a calmer mind.

Practicing Mindfulness

Humans are hardwired to think, as processing thoughts is an evolutionary survival tool designed to drive us towards problem solving. The feeling of beings "worried" is actually a byproduct that supports this function. This is why we feel uneasy when we perceive danger in close proximity.

However, too much worry becomes detrimental to our mental health, especially when there is no actual threat to life and limb. This frequently occurs in the relatively danger-free environment of modern-day life.

It's easy for thoughts to become inescapable cycles, needlessly distraught, or debilitatingly compulsive.

On a boiled down scientific perspective, excessive negative thoughts lead to poor neurological connections that adversely affect our cognitive skills and emotional stability.

Practicing mindfulness is a method that can help neutralize the effects of over thinking. By bringing your attention to the present without holding any judgements and outside thoughts, you begin to "experience" the moment at hand rather than "thinking" about it. There are several mindfulness exercises available, such as meditation, but you can choose to practice mindfulness in a variety of ways.

One good exercise is practicing "the rule of three" everytime you wake up in the morning.

Basically, this is how you do it:

  • Focus on three things that you can see
  • Then focus on three things you can hear
  • Finally, focus on three things you can feel on your body

The key to mindfulness practice is that you should be able to set aside a certain amount of time for it. When you're starting out it doesn't have to be that long; even five minutes a day is enough. In time you will gradually get used to the feeling of practicing mindfulness.

With enough experience, you should apply your mindfulness practice whenever you feel your mind start to wander or become saturated with thoughts.

Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a gateway that invites positivity into one’s life. Even if it's as simple as appreciating the things you have, it goes a long way in practicing gratitude. Alongside practicing mindfulness, try to be aware of opportunities when you can be thankful.

Firstly, begin by focusing on just a single thing that you are thankful for. You might find yourself having to exert yourself to be grateful for that one single thing, which is perfectly fine. Sometimes a small push towards gratitude leads to gaining momentum for you to be grateful for other things in life as well.

Remember that expressing gratitude, appreciation, and thankfulness teaches you to be able to accept other positive things that life has in store. Once you get used to this, you can also make this into a daily routine.

Before you go to bed, name ten things that are grateful for by either saying it out loud your words of gratitude out aloud or writing it down. This may seem simple, but it can be very difficult to do, especially when you're feeling disappointed, depressed, or alone.

These actions may seem pointless or superficial, and you might even think "What good are just words?" This is perfectly fine, as the aim is to be able to push past negative thoughts and to go towards a path of gratitude and thankfulness.

You can build practicing gratitude incrementally by focusing on tiny actions on a day-to-day basis. Pretty soon, you will begin to find yourself putting real actions behind merely using words.

Practicing mindfulness and showing gratitude may take time to have an impact on your thoughts and emotions. But continue to persist and don't give up too soon. The effort and time you put into these practices are meant to pay off in the long term.

Hang in there!