Switching the Language of Gratitude “On”

A grateful attitude/perspective is not about being “happy.” Rather, it is a way of thinking and speaking that can rewire the brain, allowing us to identify and enjoy abundance, rather than focusing on scarcity. Benefits can include positive endorphins, improved health, and conditions that support connection and healthy relationships. Here are some (very) simple examples.

Anne Rulo Switching the Language of Gratitude On

But vs. And: “But” focuses on what’s missing, “and” adds. Ex. “Thanks for putting the clothes away but you forgot my socks” vs. “Thanks for putting the clothes away and would you bring my socks?” “But” tends to sound more critical and invites defensiveness. “And” is more hopeful.

Have to vs. Get to: “Have to” implies force or reluctance, “get to” communicates opportunity. Even for things that may feel unpleasant, it helps our brains to feel in control. Ex. “I have to go to work” vs. “I get to go to work.”

Only vs. At least: “Only” implies what’s missing, while “at least” acknowledges gains. “They only had two types of apples” vs. “At least we can still make the pie.” This one is often used in tandem so we can be authentic about the loss and then shift to what we do have.

You vs. I: This is key to interpersonal communication. “You” invites defensiveness and subversively gives power away. “I” owns our experience. Ex. “You were mean” vs. “I am hurt by those words.” If you are not used to using “I statements” it can be hard to switch but so valuable.

Didn’t vs. Did: “Didn’t” points at the unaccomplished. “Did” acknowledges effort. This can be a hard one for perfectionists. Ex. “I didn’t get all the laundry put away” vs. “I washed and folded everything.”

Can’t vs. Can: “Can’t” focuses on end goals, “can” focuses on growth. This is huge for kids who want to be good at things right away. Ex. “I can’t dribble all the way down the court” vs. “I can make it to half court.”

Of course, these aren’t hard rules. It is not helpful to practice “toxic positivity” or dismiss difficult feelings or grief. And, we can’t flippantly use these for big losses or pain. However, when used in daily living, these changes in our language/thinking can be helpful for increasing the benefits of a positive mindset.

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