“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change” –Wayne W. Dyer.

The lens you use to look at your life, your circumstances and your relationships will affect how you feel about yourself, others and the world. Becoming aware of the lens you use is important.

Do you notice acts of kindness? Do you notice the sun setting? Do you notice how strong you feel at a certain moment in time? Or do you only take note of the mud you have to walk through or how long you have to wait in the queue?

Notice that when you choose to see what is going wrong, what isn’t good enough, or what is bad, you start noticing even more of it. You become used to the critical lens you look at the world with and will often feel angry, resentful, depressed, sad and negative.

The antidote to this negative spiral is giving yourself a new lens to look through. A lens that includes the gift of gratitude. Research have found that gratitude and happiness are strongly correlated. A possible theory explaining this finding is that gratitude moves people to experience more positive emotions. Whether you are grateful for having food in your belly, a safe space to relax or a friend who makes you feel loved, spend more time creating and appreciating these elements in your life.

Neuroscientist Glenn Fox has done research on how gratitude manifests in the brain. He found that gratitude boosts self-confidence, improves patience, and enhances dopamine and serotonin – some of the neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. Gratitude also reduces fear and anxiety by regulating the stress hormones, improves sleep and strengthens your immune system. These findings make including gratitude into your life even more attractive.

So how can you practice gratitude?

Before getting out of bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night, list 5 things you feel sincerely grateful for. As you list them, use the words “thank you for…” to really connect with the emotion, to feel gratitude. Spend a minute or two relaxing in that feeling and visualise everything or everyone you have added to your list. Notice what other feelings come up while you bask in this feeling of gratitude. (Hint: You might notice feelings of calmness, happiness, solitude, content and many others!).

Start including this gratitude practice into your routine so it can become a habit and improve your overall well-being and happiness. Take note of how the way you look at things will change and how you will start to notice the small and beautiful experiences around you. This new lens will have a positive effect on your mood.

written by Megan Stapelberg, Counseling psychologist