This week, we asked our beautiful friend, Courtenay McCulloch, to help us write about how practicing gratitude can turn the tide on those unhelpful thoughts.

I remember someone telling me years ago that opposite of self-pity is gratitude.

In these winter months, it’s especially easy to wallow in self-pity… ‘Woe is me, it’s cold and wet and my washing is piling up and my lawns are over grown and the power bill is through the roof and my kids are grumpy…’

Sometimes I don’t even consciously realise how these negative and pessimistic thoughts are affecting me and those around me – it takes snapping at someone to question myself and ask, ‘Hold up there Lady, what’s going on?’

As humans, our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative – it’s a survival mechanism that goes back as far as we go. So, don’t worry, it’s not just you! It’s completely human to go straight to the negative (it’s just our brains trying to look out for us).

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way.

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen it before.” – Maya Angelou

The human brain is wired with billions of neurons, each helping us to think, act and feel the way we do. The more we think a certain thought, the stronger the link between our neurons become – it’s the brain’s way of making the thinking process a little easier and a little quicker.

But just because it might be wired to think of the negative, it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. The beauty of how the brain works is that it is plastic – it can be moulded and remoulded. It’s up to us to decide how we want to think and feel.

One thing I have found that instantly snaps me out of my self-pity and negative spiral is choosing to change my thoughts by looking around me and noticing all the things I am grateful for.

And it’s not just me, science backs it up.

Gratitude is the appreciation of people, things, feelings, event or anything else in our lives. By taking the time to recognise the things that we are grateful for, we not only take time to connect in with ourselves and our lives, but we start to rewire the connections in our brains.

And beyond a little boost in the way we think and feel, research suggests that practising gratitude has positive impacts on our physical health, psychological health, resilience, sleep quality, relationships and more.

Even better news? By taking the time to even read this far… you’ve made the conscious choice to change your thoughts. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday-ness of everyday and wallow in our self-pity, but with just a small change, we can choose optimism and positivity instead.

An idea might be to set an alarm at a time where you know you can take just 5 minutes to yourself (that’s literally 0.3% of your day!) and commit to journaling, thinking about, or even using this gorgeous Gratitude Printable I created (I used to journal, but I have been loving using it!).

I’ve been keeping it on my fridge and Rick has even said it’s been encouraging him to think about what he’s grateful for as well.

Whether it’s 5 minutes or 50 minutes you decide to dedicate to your gratitude (even starting with a few minutes a day can have huge benefits to your life!), make sure to really feel what you’re grateful for.

Maybe it’s that first sip of your morning cup of tea. Take a moment to close your eyes, envision yourself in the morning and let that feeling of warmth and contentment wash over you. Or if you’re grateful for waking up in your partner’s arms, imagine their arms around you, the warmth between you and the feeling of pure joy it gives you.

You can download our free Gratitude Printable here. I hope it brings positivity into your life like it has to mine!

Guest blogger, Courtenay McCulloch is the founder of Thrive Collective, a community of women dedicated to cheering each other on and lifting each other up. Find her on Facebook or Instagram.