girl writes in her notebook

How gratitude can help your anxiety

Showing gratitude seems like an easy enough gig. You show up, you say thanks for what you’ve got, you go about your business. If only it were that simple. It’s easy to be grateful when life is tickety-boo but when worry and anxiety take over, being thankful can be a big ask.

Or is it? Ironically, the antidote to slaying anxiety is gratitude itself.  Here’s why: the mind cannot focus on positive and negative information at the same time. With consistent practice, gratitude becomes a means of guiding the brain to focus on the good in the present moment, thus reducing anxiety and feelings of apprehension. No fretting about the future or pining for the past. The result? Instant calm.

Don’t believe me? Try these three failproof anxiety fixes that can be used anytime, anywhere.


Keep a gratitude journal

Make like media mogul Oprah Winfrey and keep a gratitude journal.  Spend five to ten minutes each day for an entire month writing down the things in your daily life that inspire appreciation. These can be anything from someone opening a door for you to having a warm bed to sleep in at night. Add to your list each day until you’ve created a book of beautiful moments.

Now, read your story out loud. What is it telling you? There's a lot in life that's worthy of a heads up.  Consider it a disappointment ointment, an expectation crusher, an entitlement antidote and an envy eradicator. Most of all, consider it a form of presence – on a stick, covered in sticky toffee, just waiting to be enjoyed.


Reframe the pain

Anxiety is a fear-based reaction to a situation perceived as stressful or dangerous. Think about what is making you anxious. A bad break-up? Finances in a jocker? Made redundant? Now think about what the problem is teaching you.

We’re very quick to shake a fist at instead of fist-pumping the universe for our life’s lot, so this is a golden opportunity to embrace life’s more challenging experiences.

By viewing the predicament from a position of thanks, you’re empowering yourself to learn from troublesome situations in the past, find solutions for the future or at least make peace with the present.

Sometimes, life comes gift-wrapped a bit differently to how we expected it. It’s up to us to reframe what we have – to focus less on what we consider to be flaws and more on the favours. 

By figuring out how to show gratitude for what we have and what we may have wished for in the past but never got, we’ll be better positioned to understand why missed opportunities are, with hindsight, the best things we never had.


Give grand a go

Feeling overwhelmed? Suffering from ‘compare and despair’ syndrome? Don’t worry, it’ll be grand – if you allow it that is. It was decision-making theorist Herbert A. Simon who maintained that we should embrace ‘good enough’ over ‘best’ in matters of judgement. Trying too hard to make life fit an Instagram-perfect version of reality always disappoints, so why overthink it?

Think about it: in switching gears from having it all to wanting what we have, from being our best selves to just being ourselves, finding that anxiety-free sweet spot of satisfaction could be less of an epic journey and more of a cake-walk. All you can do is your best version of best. Then it’s up to you to leave well enough alone. If you want a sweeter journey in life, then give grand a go. Take a fork while you’re at it.


If you are feeling anxious don't forget that laya healthcare members can avail of our 24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme





Ann Marie O’Connor

Annmarie is an award-winning fashion writer, stylist and founder of The Happy Closet - a lifestyle decluttering service which balances well-being with being well-dressed. Her editorial and styling work has appeared in publications such as the Irish Examiner, Sunday Times Style magazine, The Irish Times, Irish Tatler, Image and The Gloss. On air she is a regular contributor to The Dave Fanning Show, The Ryan Tubridy Show; TV3′s Xposé, Ireland AM and RTÉ’s Today show.