How to Cancel Negative Thoughts with Gratitude
Gratitude, the attitude of being thankful is mostly a response – to a gift, an act of kindness, a reward.
However, when the burdens of daily living crush us, we forget the good times and we forget to be grateful. We are more likely to harbor negative thoughts about ourselves, and our situation. Ironically, the thing we forget is the very thing we need to help us improve. Gratitude is the antidote to negative thoughts.
Here is how it works1:
- Negativity starts with a feeling (a sensation). I feel cheated. I feel disappointed. I feel like a failure.
- We think about how we feel. Thinking is a mental activity of exploring and analyzing. Where did this feeling come from? Why? What caused it? We compare our findings with other feelings and thoughts from previous experiences.
- We settle on an emotion. We become sad, or mad. Either way, our thoughts can effect a change.
In the center of this feeling-thought-emotion process, our thoughts (our minds) have the potential to lead us forward or backward. Just as our thoughts lead us forward into engaging our emotions, they can lead us backward into changing our feelings. When our thoughts change, our feelings change. There is no limit to where our thoughts can take us.
From Sadness to Gratitude
If we settle on sad, we are likely to engage other emotions like embarrassment, shame, disappointment, all the way to depression. At the point where we begin to dislike our situation, we can demand that our thoughts release us. One guaranteed way is to begin thinking gratitude.
Gratitude that (for example):
- I am grateful that I can feel, even the feeling of sadness, because feeling means that I am alive.
- I am grateful that in the past, sad situations did not last forever.
- I am grateful that the sadness subsides as I watch the children play in the park, on the street corner, or on the children’s television network.
- I am grateful that there is someone, friendly or professional, I can consult.
- I am grateful for upbeat music with inspirational lyrics to help change the mood.
From Madness to Gratitude
The emotions which connect with mad may be different. We are likely to engage in blame, anger, resentment, and perhaps the desire for revenge. Whereas, loneliness accommodates our sadness; madness prompts us to seek out people on whom to vent our rage. Self-control begins with thought control, and again, thoughts of gratitude can be our mood changer.
Gratitude that (for example):
- The people I try to blame have no control over the way I react; I am free to choose my response, even forgiveness.
- My anger does not control me; I can control it.
- There are appropriate ways to use up my negative energy: in the gym, in gardening, in basketball or football.
- There are motivational books or tapes which can help change my mood.
- There is still good company available—(people who are not the object of my madness) with whom I can share positive feelings.
The Attitude of Gratitude
The attitude of gratitude which surfaces during the Thanksgiving season is so refreshing! That atmosphere can be created on any day of the year, especially to combat negative feelings. Positive feelings, thoughts and emotions flourish in an atmosphere of gratitude.
Strife, discontent or any other relationship problem between individuals or families are likely to disappear when people make the effort to be grateful.
- No cursing because people think of blessings when they give thanks.
- No complaining because thanksgiving is an expression of satisfaction.
- No bragging because thanksgiving takes the focus off self and puts it on the giver.
- Not criticizing or condemning because thanksgiving is giving praise.
The thought of gratitude clears our minds of anger, revenge, malice and all other kinds of evil intentions. We think of kindness in its various forms: tangible gifts, acceptance, hospitality, encouragement, sacrifice. We smile or shed tears of joy. We remember a host of reasons why we like people and why we believe that people like us.
Eventually we turn our thoughts heavenward to the ultimate Giver who intervenes in our affairs, so that we often receive the most appropriate gifts at the most appropriate times. Nothing uplifts and inspires the spirit like a session of thanksgiving.
My Favorite Gratitude Quote
Thou who hast given
so much to me,
give me one more thing
- a grateful heart!
During the day when it seems that there is no immediate reason to give thanks, count your blessings. Relive moments of a thanksgiving occasion. If we allow it, the spirit of gratitude can affect us whenever we choose.
- When the conversation lags, say, "I am so grateful that . . . " An appropriate ending for your sentence will come to mind.
- Look around in the room, or at the outdoor objects within your sight. There must be something worth an expression of gratitude. For example, the hospitality on the inside; the weather or the incident-free traffic on the outside.
- Practice being happy for other people and giving thanks for their good favor. "I'm thankful that you shared the news of your grandson's promotion with me."
- Write a gratitude journal. Inspire a relative or friend to do the same, and share regularly.
- Practice meditation when the sense of gratitude seems to elude. Find a gratitude quote and meditate on it.
Practice thanksgiving until it becomes a habit. It not only influences thought and moods; it also generates positive actions. One study on how gratitude motivates behavior2 reports that when a jewelry store owner called and thanked his customers, they increased subsequent purchases by 70%. Another study3 showed that regular customers of a restaurant gave bigger tips when the waiters wrote “Thank you” on their checks.
How would the relationship in our homes, on our jobs, in the community be different if we express gratitude more often? What a wonderful world this would be, for both those who give thanks and those who receive thanks, if we all thanked regularly!
1. Miller PhD., Ruth L. What’s the difference between feelings, thoughts, and emotions? (May 27, 2011).
2. Carey, J. R., Clicque, S. H., Leighton, B. A., & Milton, F. (1976). A test of positive reinforcement of customers. Journal of Marketing, 40, 98-100.
3. Rind, B., & Bordia, P. (1995). Effect of server's "Thank you" and personalization on restaurant tipping. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 745-751.