By Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D.
Gratitude is the antidote for toxic things that come into our lives. Simply put, gratitude fosters optimism, which strengthens hope. That’s why it’s hard to imagine more effective soul medicine than gratitude. The list of things we can and should be thankful for—even in our darkest moments—is practically inexhaustible.
Granted, sometimes troubles make it hard to muster gratitude for things like being alive or the loved ones in your life. So begin with small ones. Try saying thanks for crisp leaves on a fall day, the taste of your favorite tea, the phone call from your best friend, or the chance to sleep in on a Saturday morning.
Gratitude has a way of spreading exponentially. The more you choose to be grateful, the more you will find to appreciate. You will notice the beauty all around you in the world, and you will develop an acute awareness of the loving God responsible for it all. When dark thoughts threaten to push everything else aside, purposeful gratitude is a powerful way to push back.
Acceptance and gratitude open the doors for you to experience the fullness of life and a heart of peace. Closely observe the countless good things you enjoy but may tend to overlook. Spend time intentionally cultivating gratitude and watch how it improves everything about your life.
Finding God-given blessings in every situation and each day is one of the indispensable keys to bouncing back, being resilient, and achieving optimal health. On the other hand, when a spirit of ingratitude takes root in our hearts—no matter the reason—it can be difficult to recognize and hard to release.
If you have been wounded, it may seem wise to venture out cautiously and carefully. Pessimism appears to be the protective armor you need to engage in a hostile world. But though self-defense seems like a logical approach to the wounded person, pessimism leads to death—the death of optimism. A pessimistic attitude may fend off disappointment and potential pain, but it also impedes enthusiasm, joyfulness, genuine laughter, and trust in others.
Thankfully, we all have access to hope and can choose hopefulness as our prevailing approach to life. This is the mental and emotional framework that supports happiness—even when the winds of negativity buffet it.
But how do you make optimism the foundation of your life? How does happiness become the norm rather than the exception? The change from pessimism to optimism takes effort and practice. Your optimistic muscles have atrophied, while your pessimistic muscles are as pumped up as a bodybuilder’s.
Begin with small steps. For every pessimistic thought, worry, or fear that comes to mind, intentionally stop and search for a positive, optimistic response. Deliberately replace discouraging thoughts with encouraging ones.
It is possible to learn to live above your circumstances. Do you know someone whose attitude is amazing, even though they’ve gone through terrible things in life? Do you know someone whose well-being seems to be impervious to the ups and downs of daily life? These optimists have one thing in common: They make the daily choice to look for the good in life, even amid difficult circumstances.
In order to shake off the chains of negativity, we must begin with the truth. When we acknowledge and then accept our circumstances, and choose gratitude and optimism, we are led to hope and happiness.