Gratitude Journal

As a psychotherapist and graduate student of clinical psychology, I study human behaviour from a model of pathology, which, often times, focuses on symptoms and illnesses. It is a very negative perspective. I look at what is not working or what is wrong with a client. In our personal lives, most individuals, also, have a very negative way of looking at themselves and the world. The focus is more on what we don’t have or what we are doing wrong. My life coaching background has taught me that it is just as important and perhaps more beneficial to focus on and study what makes people happy. One of the easiest ways to do this is with gratitude.

ImageBut, before we talk about gratitude, let’s first learn about how our thinking can impact our feelings. Two great cognitive behavioural therapist’s, Aaron Beck and David Burns, describe cognitive distortions that can cause a negative perspective of reality. One such cognitive distortion is called a, ‘mental filter’. This is when an individual has a filter that causes them to ignore or filter out all of the positive aspects of a situation and to only see or filter in the negative aspects of the situation. This is, often, done even when there are many more positive aspects of the situation and only a little negative. The individual will zero in on the tiny little negative thing and discount all the positive. A good example of this is a student who might earn five A +’s on their report card and one C. The individual’s mental filter would cause them to only feel badly, or stupid, because of the C, but not feel proud of themselves, or smart, for all of the A’s. This example, also, describes, ‘discounting/minimizing the positive,’ another common cognitive distortion that is self-explanatory. This can, also, cause someone to maintain a negative view of themselves and the world around them.

So, how do we fix these cognitive distortions? One simple way to start to shift your inner dialogue from negative to positive is with gratitude. The more associations we can build to help our neurons to wire together to go naturally to what’s right, and what is great, about life, the easier it becomes to be more positive (creating a more positive mental filter) and to have a happier state of well-being. You can start a daily gratitude journal. Everyday just write out 5 things you are grateful for. I know that there are many people who will say that I have nothing to be grateful for, but I know when you dig deep you can always find stuff. You might be grateful that you have the eyesight to read this article. You might be grateful that you have the power to choose your mental filter and what aspects of a situation to maximize or minimize in your life.

You can be rich and have everything in the world, but if you aren’t grateful you will not ever be happy. Take some time, every day, to recognize all that you have and be grateful for it because if you do you will begin to feel much happier and will start to have a more fulfilled, satisfied life! 






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