“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” —Socrates
We all have down days where we feel discouraged, defeated and troubled. Ruminating, however, is when we experience excessive, intrusive, and negative thoughts about experiences and feelings for an extended period of time. For example, a person with a history of trauma may be unable to stop thinking about said trauma, and an individual with depression may persistently think negative, self-defeating thoughts. These thoughts do not just go away on their own nor can they be “slept off” (which is a great remedy for our occasional down days), but connecting with our gratitude can help lighten those heavy loads.
I believe there is great power behind practicing gratitude. When we are ruminating on the things that are wrong or bad or troubling in our lives, it is as if we are walking down a path and getting stuck in mud. Practicing gratitude helps get us out of the mud and continue walking. When we focus on what is good and right in our lives, it propels us forward and brings light into our lives. There are also psychological and physiological benefits to being grateful–it improves our mood, lowers our stress levels, decreases our blood pressure, and increases our self-esteem. We only have so much brain power… why dwell on the negative when we can instead concentrate on all the good things going on around us?
Okay, so we want to stop ruminating about the negative forces in our lives but now what? The best trick in the book is the ABCs of gratitude. This may sound cutesy, but trust me…try it! It is as simple as it sounds: Enumerate something for which you are grateful for every letter of the alphabet. Doing this creates 26 paths to contentment that can override any ruminating we may be doing. I will go first! I am grateful for…
A: Apple Cider…my new addiction!
B: Blankets (Hello Fall/Winter weather)
C: Children… I <3 my nieces and nephews
D: My rescue Dog
E: Energy (when I have it haha)
G: Growth mindset
I: “I can” statements
K: Kind neighbors
L: Laughter (truly the best medicine)
N: NEW YORK (upstate and NYC)
O: Organic (I have been on an organic kick)
Q: Quality sleep
R: Relaxation (all too rare)
S: Sunrises and sunsets
U: Umbrellas in the rain
V: Vacuums (for all my dog’s hair!)
W: Washing machines
X: NetfliX (kept us all entertained in 2020)
Y: Youthful appearance (thanks genetics!)
Z: Zoos (I love animals)
Okay, some of those are silly. But I truly am grateful for a washing machine that cleans my clothes for me so I do not have to spend hours doing it! And I absolutely the shining moments I get to spend with my nieces and nephews. When life is hard and/or stressful, it can weigh us down. But when we focus on the simple pleasures around us–like a good peach, a super relaxing massage, or a good night of quality sleep–it creates paths to contentment instead of us ruminating on all the things that are less than ideal.
Life is hard. What makes life easier is being grateful and counting our blessings–the things we do have and do enjoy that do make our lives a little happier, easier, more meaningful, etc. The next time we catch ourselves ruminating in all that is wrong or unpleasant, let’s stop and start saying our ABCs…of gratitude!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
- Becoming MInimalist: Contentment: How to Find This Unmistakable Freedom
- Cluff Counseling: Depression is Not a Life Sentence
- Cluff Counseling: Gifts of Gratitude
- Cluff Counseling: “SELF-CARE: IS IT SELFISH?”
- Cluff Counseling: Self-Esteem & Self-Worth: Two essential Components of the Self
- Cluff Counseling: Sleep…It Does a Body Good!
- Cluff Counseling: Sleep Like a Baby: Nightly Routines
- Cluff Counseling: Teaching Your Little Ones The Art of Gratitude
- Cluff Counseling: You Are Blessed: A Simple Gratitude Challenge
- Conscious Lifestyle Magazine: “HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF GRATITUDE:
6 KEY PRINCIPLES”
- HuffPost: “THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF GRATITUDE”
- GratitudePower.net: “THE NEW SCIENCE OF GRATITUDE”
- Greater Good Magazine: “PAY IT FORWARD”
- Greater Good Magazine: “WHY GRATITUDE IS GOOD”
- Psychology Today: “THE HEALING POWER OF GRATITUDE”
- Sleeping Should Be Easy: “HOW TO TEACH GRATITUDE TO CHILDREN”