How gratitude will dig you out of the Blue Monday doldrums

Today is Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. It’s the weather, our debt, our failing new year’s resolutions and lack of motivation that’s done it to us. Actually, Blue Monday started a few years ago as a marketing campaign for a travel company, encouraging us to forget about our January blues and turn our attention to a lovely holiday in the sun. And now, it’s a thing!

I encourage you not to let something that started as a bit of puff, get you down. We have at our disposal an incredible tool that is guaranteed to make us feel better: gratitude.

We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude, and just taking a few moments to focus on what you have, rather than complain about the things that you think you deserve, will have an incredible, positive impact on your health and happiness.

Research has shown that fostering a more thankful approach to life will:

Help you to sleep better

Spending just a few minutes writing what you’re thankful for, each night, in a gratitude journal will help you to sleep better and longer. Think about it, you’re about to go to bed in a bad mood about something that happened today, but instead you think about what went well. It’ll be much easier to get to sleep remembering that you’re loved and cared for, and the ‘incident’ will pale into insignificance.

Improve your relationships

Saying thank you more often will be appreciated by friends, family and co-workers. A study by Emotion found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

Improve your longevity

Grateful people are more likely to take better care of their health, exercise more frequently and eat better; therefore, improving their overall wellbeing.

Gratitude will make you feel better about yourself

You’ll reduce your need to compare yourself with people who have more money, a better job, better behaved children, a more loving husband, etc, etc. When you practice gratitude, you’re more able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments, because you’re happier with your own.

So how can you do it?

So how can you go about incorporating more gratitude into your life? There are hundreds, if not thousands of blogs on the web with suggestions on how to be more grateful. Do a search, find the lists, and pick a few things that feel good to you. But I would like to offer one suggestion, which is really a catch-all exercise that will not only help you to notice your blessings, but create a change within you that will have a positive knock-on effect for all aspects of your life.

Scan your day at bedtime

At bedtime, take a few moments to scan through your day. Think about what happened today, and what and who you have to be grateful for.  Write it down if you prefer in a gratitude journal, or even use a gratitude app.

I love the exercise in Rhonda Byrne’s book The Magic (you can get it here), where every night you write down 20 things you’re grateful for, and then you repeat the exercise every day for 30 days. The first day is easy. You’re grateful for your husband, your kids, your parents, your house, your pets, your job, etc. But when you get to Day 4 it gets harder and you still have 26 more days to go.

You start to think more broadly about what’s good in your life and the people that contribute to it, from your postman, to the farmers that harvest your food, and I’ve even thanked Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet. Where we would be without him?

When you stop and notice your blessings and the people that bring them to you, you’re much more likely to smile at the postman next time you see him, maybe even remember to put some money in a Christmas card for him.

Your neighbour, who always takes in your deliveries, will maybe get a smile more frequently than before.

You may take more of an interest in how your food is produced and chat to the people at the farmers’ market.

You realise that your colleague has covered for you a couple of times at work and you’ve never really shown your appreciation. Tomorrow is a chance to correct that.

Your mum looks after your dog, three days a week while you go to work. She’s happy to do it, but it does hinder her own social life, so now you host a nice Sunday lunch for her and her friends, to show her how much she means to you.

Taking a few moments each day, not only makes you feel better, the world also becomes a slightly nicer place.

So long Blue Monday.