The practice of “counting your blessings” is backed by religion and science, and it can help you improve your well-being, performance, sleep, relationships, blood pressure, and stress levels. When you count your blessings, you take time to appreciate the good you have experienced, are experiencing now, and will experience in the future. This might seem simple but it can be difficult to put into practice. When you’re facing adversities, you or your partner is deployed, or you’re in a period of social isolation, taking the time to count your blessings can be a vital strategy to maintain your well-being and performance. Learn what makes counting your blessings hard—and how to add this practice to your life.
The negativity bias
The human brain has evolved to be adept at identifying threats and challenges, which allows you to navigate through a sometimes dangerous world successfully. This ability helps Warfighters, family members, and teammates to stay vigilant and safe. But it also can skew your perception of life toward the negative.
This hardwired tendency, called “negativity bias,” causes your brain to prioritize, seek out, and lock on to negative information in the world like a heat-seeking missile. You’re likely to process negative events more fully than positive ones. Negative emotions seem to hang around longer than positive emotions. And when you get home at the end of the day, you’re more likely to mull over the one negative comment someone made about your work and ignore the many positive comments you received from others. It’s just the way your brain works.
Negativity bias is adaptive and helpful in many ways, but the key to maintaining good mental health is to find balance. So what can you do? Make it a regular practice to count your blessings.
Hunt the good stuff
One way you can fight negativity bias is to work each day to find good—in people, places, and life events. Whether you take time to reflect on 3 good things each day, or once a week, creating a regular gratitude routine can help your brain begin to notice and remember more of the good that happens in your life. Many of the biggest blessings in life come through little moments. It’s easy to let those little moments pass by in a blur if you don’t count your blessings. Practice makes perfect. Here are 3 tips to help you count your blessings.
- Ask yourself “What do I not want to take for granted today or this week?" Each morning or at the start of each week try to list the things you want to make sure you don’t take for granted. Maybe it’s the time you get to spend with your kids, partner, or friends? Perhaps it’s your health or good weather? Maybe its technology and the many ways you can connect with others? Life can go fast, and before you know it the season is over or your 5 year old has grown up and is moving out.
- Stop and reflect on what’s good right now. Try it right now. What are a few things that are good in this moment? It doesn’t need to be anything big. It’s worth noticing and appreciating that you’re in an air conditioned room, or sitting in a comfy chair. If your air conditioner broke and you were sweating right now, it would consume your attention, so it is worth taking a little time to appreciate it when it works. This is also a good strategy when things aren’t going the way you had hoped. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic, or just got done a frustrating conversation. You can change your mood and mindset by simply stopping to find a few things that are good right now in the moment.
- Find people to count your blessings with. Maybe it’s a part of a family prayer at the start of dinner or a group text with friends or family. Counting your blessings with others can help you remember to hunt the good stuff, and it also can strengthen your relationships to share in each other’s joy.
Find other ways to grow your gratitude and to learn some new and interesting ways to make gratitude a priority in your life. Practicing gratitude will enhance your spiritual fitness, mental health and performance. Make gratitude matter for you—and those you love.