Practical Tips for Balancing Negative News with Gratitude
As we face our current global health crisis, it is clear to see how the media feeds fear during times like this. As we get constant updates on how the virus is spreading, the number of deaths in our states, which businesses are closing, and the impact this could have on our financial futures, it can be very hard to remain calm.
To help manage this difficult time, try this: For each piece of negative information that you hear or read, actively notice something for which you are grateful.
In a recent blog by Derrick Carpenter, he states, “People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.” (https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/)
The brain has a tendency to get stuck in one type of thinking. Fear can quickly take over; our brain is trying to protect us by sleuthing out potential dangers. This is fine in moderation because it helps us make smart choices, but we need to keep it in control. By practicing gratitude, you are helping your brain balance thoughts like “danger is everywhere” with “there is good in the world.” You can do this activity in your mind or use it as a prompt for journaling.
How do you find things to be grateful for when everything seems like it’s falling apart?
- Start close: What is something you can see, touch, smell, taste, or hear that you are thankful for? Did you enjoy a warm cup of coffee or a cold glass of water today?
- Reach out: Who is someone you are thankful for? Maybe a person who answered a question for you, rescheduled an appointment, or delivered a pizza?
- Think big: Consider all the conveniences in the world that we normally take for granted. Pick one, consider how life would be more difficult without it, and take a moment to be grateful for it.
- Thank God: Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us be glad and rejoice in it!”
At first your gratitude practice may feel forced and fake. That’s ok. Help your brain learn to like this new habit by congratulating yourself for the effort.
Here’s an example:
- You see a notification on your phone that the stock market has lost another 300 points.
- Habitual Negative Thought: “I’m never going to have enough money to retire. I’m doomed.”
- New Gratitude Thought: “I sure am glad there are professionals who manage my accounts for me. Like the Bible says, God will provide.”
- Congratulations: “YES! I remembered to practice gratitude! Yay ME!”
Sometimes you will be able to find a “silver lining” in the situation that is causing you stress. Sometimes a better plan is to shift gears completely and tune in to your immediate environment. Try different combinations in different situations. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself room to grow.
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