Anxiety can be frustrating and paralyzing. Although everyone experiences anxiety at some point or another, it becomes a real problem when it has a profoundly negative impact on your life. Yes, it’s normal to worry about things. Yes, it’s normal to feel fear. When worry and fear rule your very existence, however, it can make life extremely difficult. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health challenges that people struggle with.
As a person who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, I regularly experience a stressful process of spiraling thoughts. My fear and worry can go to extreme paranoia in a short amount of time. In addition, I struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. In fact, as I write this, I am worried about meetings that I have this afternoon. My mind is thinking, “Am I prepared? Will I be able to stay focused? Should I cancel my meetings because I am behind on my work? Is this blog post even worth it? How the heck is this blog post helping people?”
Fortunately, I’ve been able to relieve my anxiety more quickly nowadays than at any other point in my life. Here’s the solution that I have found:
Practice Gratitude to Relieve Anxiety
Relief for my anxiety centers around gratitude. Let me explain…gratitude is what you experience when you feel thankful.
In a study, titled Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, scientists experimented with two groups of people. One group was asked to keep a gratitude journal on weekly basis. The other group was asked to record their challenges, complaints, obstacles, and everyday life events.
The results of this study concluded that the group people who wrote down the things they were grateful for were much happier than the group of people who were focused on the negative aspects of their lives.
Daily Gratitude Practice is About Habits
Each morning, I strive to do two things:
- Wake myself up with gratitude.
- Write in my gratitude journal.
Good Morning with Gratitude!
Each morning, I open my eyes to the sound of an alarm. Like most people, my first instinct is to snooze and do anything possible to prolong the wonderful sleep that I am enjoying. Also, because of my depression, getting out of bed can be extremely difficult.
The strategy that I use to get through this is to think about 20 things that I am grateful for while I’m still lying in bed. To be honest with you, I often can’t think of anything that I am grateful for in that moment. Since I know that this strategy works, I persevere, nonetheless.
I start with simple things, such as the cup on my nightstand or the fact that I have a comfortable pillow to sleep on. As I begin doing this, more and more things come to mind. I use my fingers to count until I hit the number 20. By the time I finish, I feel happy, and motivated to get out of bed and start my day.
The Gratitude Journal (or Notebook)
According to Wikipedia, “A gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives.”
I first learned about the importance of a gratitude journal (or gratitude notebook) when I read the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.
Here is a recent gratitude journal entry that I wrote. Please take a moment to review it and then scroll down to see the system that I follow each day.
Here’s my system for writing in my gratitude journal:
- Write down the date of the entry. This way, when you go back and reread past journal entries, you have an accurate record of exactly when the entry took place.
- Next, write down your location. This also allows you to put the entry into more perspective if you decide to reread it in the future. In the example above, I was on a flight from Boston to New York City.
- Say the words, “Thank you!” to yourself, 50 times and focus on feeling it in your heart. I use my fingers to count and tally this at the top of the journal entry for accuracy.
- Write down all of the things that you are grateful for in that moment. In the example above, I was grateful for a presentation that I delivered to the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention the day before. I was also grateful for my friend and video editor, Brandy Sales, along with his wife Lynne, Misty, and Marcy for an amazing evening. (NOTE: They all drove over an hour, after a long day of work, to pick me up from my hotel and take me out to dinner – I have some awesome people in my life.) I was also grateful for my fish and snail.
- Again, say the words, “Thank you!” to yourself, 50 times and focus on feeling it in your heart.
- Next, write down things that you want to happen as if they have already manifested. This is the perfect opportunity to address things that you are worried about. In the example above, I wanted to have a safe flight home. I also wanted to memorize and get connected with my presentations for the following week. Keep in mind that my anxiety was spiraling out of control about these things.
- Review the list of things that you want and visualize them having already manifested. I learned about technique from the book, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity: Forces that Bring Riches to You by Catherine Ponder. This step relieves my anxiety instantly!
- Write down a statement of surrender (or prayer) at the end. Since I don’t practice a particular faith, I write, “I give thanks for the immediate, complete, and divine fulfillment of these desires. This or something better comes forth with perfect timing, according to my higher powers which good for me.”
- Finally, say the words, “Thank you!” to yourself, 50 more times and focus on feeling it in your heart.
Practicing gratitude is an essential part of my morning routine checklist. It allows me to be INTENTIONAL about establishing a POSITIVE MINDSET and TAKE CONTROL OF MY ANXIETY before my day begins.
My good friend, Erika Banks, has taught me so much about the importance of gratitude. Whenever I would call her and get her voicemail greeting, she would ask that you tell her what you are grateful for. No matter what I might have been feeling as I dialed her number, her voicemail greeting empowered me to relax and feel good.
Although I strive to to this on a daily basis, I sometimes miss a day. On the days that I miss, my anxiety is extremely high. Regardless, I try not to beat myself up about the days that I miss. I’ve learned over the years that both recovery and happiness are a process, not a destination. I am committed to the process.
As you think about your anxiety, I encourage you to think about small ways that you can bring the habit of gratitude into your life on a daily basis. In the spirit of this topic, I would like to say thank you for taking the time to read this article. I felt compelled to share it with you because it has really helped me.
Your Support is Needed
It’s important to me to help others that struggle with anxiety and I would be grateful for your support. Please taka few minutes to do the following:
- If you have found this article helpful, please share it with someone in your life who may be struggling with anxiety.
- Finally, I’d love to know what you are grateful for. Please let me know by leaving a comment in the box below.