The Power of Gratitude: How to Stay Sane when the World is Seemingly Against You

It is a universal fact that that University students appreciate the Thanksgiving long weekend 100x more than the average person.

This mini-break in the midst of mid-term mania gives you a second to breathe and reconnect with the things that matter most: family, friends, and mashed potatoes.

I intend to go back to school tomorrow with a giant food baby and a heart filled with love and gratitude for all the wonderful(ly weird) people in my life (I also intend to go back with a stress headache from the fear that I haven’t studied enough for my French mid-term, but that’s a story for another time).

This overload of gratitude is part of the reason why I love this weekend so much (the other part is the food). I love taking a break from my usual worrying and complaining to recognize all the amazing things I have in my life to be thankful for.

That being said, it is easy show your gratitude when there is an entire holiday surrounding it. It is much harder to feel thankful when you feel trapped by assignments, weighed down by work stresses, riddled social anxieties, and coated with loneliness. As soon reality sets back in, my perfect paradise of pumpkin pie and pleasantness starts spinning out of control until I resemble the hypothetical cranky old cat lady screaming “Get off my lawn!”

As I mentioned last week, I have a bad habit of actively searching for the negatives when there is so much positivity around me. I am personally sick of settling for this shitty mindset, so in accordance with World Mental Health Day here is

The Power of Gratitude: How to Stay Sane when the World is Seemingly Against You

Veuillez noter: I am in NO way a licensed physiatrist, I am just a 19 year-old who has read far to many self-help books than she cares to admit. For more support please refer to these links: Good2Talk, YouthLink, Glendon Counselling 

 

A moment of gratitude can change your attitude ~ A Tumblr quote I found after doing a Google search for gratitude quotes

I was first introduced to actively being grateful in grade 6. I was having a hard time at school (I’m pretty sure middle school is one of the layers of hell) when my mom suggested we create gratitude journals (I’m pretty sure I mention this in every post but my mom is the coolest/best human ever and gets an A+ for parenting in this moment but don’t tell her I said that). I loved the act choosing a journal (black spiral bound notebook with rainbow stars – it was awesome) and changing out the gel pens I used; however I didn’t quite grasp the whole gratitude part and spent most of the time being a brat and telling my mom that I thought the whole thing was stupid. Needless to say this project ended quickly (sorry mom).

Fast forward to January of this year. I had spent every day of the first two weeks back to school crying. I hated everything, my classes, my school, my program, my friends, my body, myself (I believe confused first year is another layer of hell). I don’t know what happened but something inside me snapped; I found a journal (purple mini moleskin – not as awesome but it did the trick) and I started writing three things I was grateful for every night before bed.

 

Then something really weird happened… I started to feel…happy.

 

All of a sudden I felt my confidence returning. I started getting excited about my classes, and I was appreciating the time I spent with my friends and my family (even if it was just spending hours watching the Food Network).

 

Amazing things happen when you come to terms with the fact that no matter how much you complain there are still things to be grateful for.

 

Here are a few of my tips for keeping gratitude in your life.

 

  1. Write it down

Like I mentioned, I used to have a gratitude journal where I would write things everyday, but I gave that up because every time I would miss a day I’d have a mini-freak out (Type A). Now I just keep an ongoing list of things on my phone and add to it as I please. I find that works for me but there are tons of options. You can write it in your agenda, use an app (I like the 5 minute journal), text it to a friend, carve it in stone, it’s really up to you as long as you have something to refer to when you feel like the sun ain’t gonna come out tomorrow (that’s right, I just referenced Annie).

 

  1. Look for the good in the bad

Every cloud has a silver lining, look at the glass as half full, make lemonade out of lemons etc. etc. Please pick one of these cheesy optimistic clichés and LIVE BY IT! Because as annoying as it is to admit, even when life hands you a pile of shit to deal with, there is always some ounce of goodness that can come of it. By following this rule you will not only be happier, but also you will become more resilient and someone who has plusieurs cordes à son arc (phrase idiomatique I need to know for my test tomorrow, I’m killing it!)

Looking for the good in bad doesn’t mean suppressing your emotions or hiding under a pile of self-pity and labeling it as self care, but rather it is the process of acknowledging the situation and realizing what you can do to change it.

 

  1. Don’t take things for granted

If something good happens AKNOWLEDGE IT! Don’t waste your time finding ways to discredit your good fortune by stating, “It’s not that big of a deal” or “It could have happened to anyone” or “Yeah it’s kinda cool but I really wish _________________ would happen too”. I know I’m the type of person who is always looking for the next big goal check off my list which often leaves me little to no time to bask in my glory. I have so many great things in my life, big and small, that I should be jumping for joy until I have calves of steel. Knowing what you are grateful for is one thing, but appreciating it is another.

 

  1. Spread it like butter!

Spread them good vibes by letting people know that you are grateful for them. Send thank you notes and thinking of you texts, genuinely compliment someone for a job well done, tip generously when possible, leave me sweet comments to make me feel good, etc. etc. There is a lot of nastiness in the world, but luckily there is double the amount of loveliness, so let’s take the time to share it!

 

I believe that gratitude is the Tylenol Cold and Sinus of the mental health world: it may not cure everything but it sure as heck will make you feel better so therefore it is totally worth a try.

Let me know what you are thankful for!

À la prochaine,

Rebecca

P.S A few of my eAmbassador friends wrote posts to celebrate World Mental Health Day. Make sure you check them out: Sienna, Francesca, Jamsin, and Ana

Twitter: @RebeccaKGL

Instagram: @RebeccaKazdan

SnapChat: @becca_kaz

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