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. 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.
Mental filter or discounting/minimizing the positive
Practicing gratitude sounds simple but it’s not always so easy. Mental filter or discounting/minimizing the positive is a cognitive distortion that many of us are familiar with. This is when an individual has a filter that causes them to ignore or filter out all of the positive aspects of a situation. The individual only sees or filters in the negative aspects of the situation. Often, this is done even when there are many more positive aspects of the situation than negative. A good example of this is a student who earns 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. They will miss the opportunity to feel proud of themselves, or smart, for all of the A’s.
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, write out 5 things that you are grateful for in your gratitude journal. I know that there are many people who will say that they have nothing to be grateful for, but when you dig deep you can always find stuff. You might be grateful that you have the eyesight to read this article. Or perhaps you are 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, everyday, to practice gratitude by recognizing all that you have and being grateful for it. If you do, you will begin to feel much happier and will start to have a more fulfilled, satisfied life!