As part of my Stress Relief Techniques class, I teach the importance of gratitude. It's enormously healing, simply because we're naturally such anxious creatures. We're all experts at being stressed and anxious because our earliest ancestors, who were much more vulnerable than we, had to be on the lookout incessantly for things that could be detrimental to their continued well-being. That tendency has been passed down to us through the generations, and we're now quite good at it. Practicing gratitude is a perfect antidote to that predisposition.
In addition to informing my students that it's important to think about what makes them grateful, however, I highly encourage them to write these items down. The reason is that writing is an ideomotor activity. Ideo, as in idea, means that it makes use of your mind; motor, as in motion, means that it utilizes your body. Writing is a mind-body connected activity. Anything you do using both your mind and body will have a stronger affect than anything you do with only one.
The best time to make such a list is within about half an hour of falling asleep or awakening. During those times, you're in your Alpha brainwave state, and you're more suggestible to what's going on in your environment. It's always better to do something positive when you're in Alpha than to listen to news or watch crime shows on television, because they are quite negative.
To do this exercise in gratitude, keep a pen and a notebook or pad near your bed. These are to be used for this purpose only. Every night or morning, write down at least one thing you're grateful to have in your life. It can be in any category: you woke up today, loved ones, a song you heard, a food you ate, your health, etc. If you can think of more than one thing, even better. If you want to repeat things from previous lists, that's absolutely fine. Yes, we all have things we can complain about, but we also have many things that make our lives better, and those are the things we have to train ourselves to observe.
Practicing gratitude for just a few days in a row will begin to have a positive impact on your brain, your attitude and your life.