We’ve talked about expressing and writing down gratitude plenty of times before. No matter how big or how small, being able to name anything positive can have an impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s being able to acknowledge the good things at the end of the day or being able to look back and read them if you’re feeling down, remembering that there are always good things that can happen, even when it doesn’t feel like it, and knowing there’s a light when things feel bleak can make the biggest difference.
We’ve talked about expressing and writing down gratitude plenty of times before. No matter how big and how small, being able to name anything positive can have an impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s being able to acknowledge the good things at the end of the day or being able to look back and read them if you’re feeling down, remembering that there are always good things that can happen, even when it doesn’t feel like it and knowing there’s a light when things feel bleak can make the biggest difference.
It can be hard to focus on the good things, especially when it feels like the world is falling apart around you, and because of you. People are more likely to focus and dwell on the negative versus the positive – this is known as having negativity bias, and it’s nowhere near uncommon. Having good things happen to us feels great! But there’s a comfort to them that our brains can become complacent with, and when negative things end up occurring instead, they tend to have significantly stronger impressions on us, because we don’t expect, nor do we not want them to happen.
The past month has been difficult for me with new mental health symptoms, diagnoses, and medications. Because of my new symptom of fluctuating between having very little energy or motivation and then feeling very motivated and over-confident, my health care team has assigned me the task of completing a daily mood tracker.
Negativity bias is a natural human experience. It’s why we are severely affected by what can end up being the slightest of inconveniences, even if really good things happen to us too. For example, you may have gotten an A on a really important exam, but forgetting to submit a homework assignment that same day and losing points for it is more likely to affect you.
Just this morning, I had one of the biggest exams of my time in school. Since I am in physical therapy school, this exam was a practical, in which I would be asked questions on the spot and have to answer and demonstrate techniques learned over the past year. Despite having studied hard and put in the work, my anxiety crept in. I had racing thoughts the night before such as “What if I didn’t study enough? What if I completely blank? What if I fail?” These thoughts are detrimental to myself, and I had the awareness to tell myself to stop thinking in this way.
As the weather gets colder, news seems to always be getting worse, and traditional end-of-the-year holiday plans have become either limiting or cancelled altogether, it can be difficult to find something to be grateful for, much less multiple things. Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can make finding the positives in day-to-day life impossible, and these outside events can worsen these feelings of hopelessness and negativity too.
About a year and a half ago, I started a morning journal. I had no clue how to structure it, or how it even came into fruition. I do love To Do lists, so I would have small journals that would contain my daily To Do’s. From there, I have progressively grown and evolved what has now become a crucial part to my morning routine, so much that when there’s no pen on paper for that day, the day is definitely off.