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Replace Anxious Thoughts with Grateful Thoughts

Anxious thoughts can be overwhelming, crushing, and exhausting. Cognitive-behavior therapy and other similar therapies teach that anxious thoughts are frequently more problematic than an actual anxiety-provoking situation. Problems do exist--we aren't making them up--but what causes us great stress and anxiety is how we think about the problem.

When it comes to reducing anxiety, this is a very good thing that we can use in our favor. Often, we can't change a situation that is causing anxiety. We can, however, affect our thoughts about this and any other circumstance that contributes to anxiety. We can even replace anxious thoughts with different, realistic, centered thoughts and ideas. Here's a look at replacing anxious thoughts with grateful thoughts. 

The Benefits of Changing Anxious Thoughts to Grateful Thoughts

In changing our anxious thoughts about a problematic situation, we don't change the situation. It's tempting to think, then, that bothering with our thoughts is a waste of time. If we can't fix a problem, why waste time and energy on our thoughts about it? As it turns out, changing our thoughts makes a very big difference to our anxiety and our overall mental health and wellbeing. By replacing anxious thoughts, in this case with grateful ones, we:

  • Shift our focus to what is right rather than what is wrong
  • Gain some space between ourselves and the problem (we see there are other things than just the situation)
  • Give ourselves the power of choice (we might not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose our response)
  • Free ourselves to take action (rather than being paralyzed in fear and anxiety, we can act to increase the good)

Gratitude itself is powerful. Being grateful means pausing to appreciate what is good in your life. It doesn't get rid of the bad and the anxiety-provoking, but it does open you to new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. Appreciating the good keeps the bad from overwhelming us. 

Is Gratitude Possible Amidst the COVID-19 Scare?

At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world, and a lot of things are happening that are out of our control, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Both the lack of control and the lack of certainty are causing anxiety to skyrocket. Unfortunately, we can't change the situation, and this knowledge can contribute to a sense of helplessness. Pausing to be grateful won't eradicate the virus, put supplies back in stores, or return our freedom of movement. That said, cultivating a sense of gratitude is more important now than ever. 

By taking time every day to pause and take stock of all the good that still exists, we keep our sanity and our very humanity. Life isn't bad. In fact, it happens to contain a lot of good, even now. However, it's hard to remember that when there is so much going on that is truly frightening. That's why pausing to reflect and focus our attention is crucial for our wellbeing. It returns a bit of balance and stability and brings a sense of peace and contentment when we realize that some things, some very good things, still exist around us and within us. 

Someone in my neighborhood had the idea to have everyone put a teddy bear in a front window. That way, when children are outside walking with their parents (that's allowed in my state even though just milling around in public is now a misdemeanor), they can spot the bears. It's a cute little game that brings smiles to children. It's not a medical cure. It doesn't end the isolation. But it is a way of remaining connected and showing children that the world still has teddy bears. And that is something I'm grateful for. 

I invite you to tune into this video. I share one of my meditations, one that involves changing anxious thoughts to grateful thoughts. It something that has always helped me, before the pandemic and now. I hope you, too, find it helpful. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2020, March 26). Replace Anxious Thoughts with Grateful Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, March 31 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/3/replace-anxious-thoughts-with-grateful-thoughts



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She also speaks nationally about mental health. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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