Practicing Gratitude: How It Boosts Mental Well-Being
Being thankful and showing gratitude is more than just polite manners. Did you know that practicing gratitude could make you happier and support your well-being? In this article, we dive into the power of gratitude on mental health, what it is, and how you can incorporate gratitude into your routine.
What Is Gratitude?
At its core, gratitude is an attitude of appreciation towards the good things in your life. When things are going well at work, your relationship with your partner is healthy, and you’re on your way to that promotion you want, it’s much easier to feel grateful. The hard work comes in during tough times. But that’s when practicing gratitude is more important than ever.
In your day-to-day life, practicing gratitude can look different. It’s more than saying thank you to someone; it’s a perspective that allows you to shift from negative to positive in a healthy way. It’s how you find the good when everything feels utterly bleak. In those times when it feels like you have nothing, how do you see the positive?
Gratitude is both a trait and a quality. So, you can feel grateful to a person for doing something kind. At the same time, you can experience a type of long-term gratefulness that’s more of a trait you possess.
Many start to practice gratitude because it allows you to check in on your life and take stock of where you are. It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the little things and lose focus on what matters. Being grateful helps you to identify the good in your life and be more positive, which can make you happier.
When you lack gratitude, you never feel grateful for anything. This puts you in danger of feeling entitled or deserving of what happens to you. Being ungrateful can lead to feelings of resentment and make it hard for you to appreciate what you have and ultimately be happy with your life.
The Power Of Gratitude And Its Impact On Mental Wellbeing
Feeling thankful often takes place at a big event or a particular time of year that makes you think about the good things in your life. But you can practice gratitude year-round. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of gratitude on mental health and promote a sense of well-being.
1. Reducing Stress And Anxiety
Positive psychology researchers have spent the last few decades investigating the effects of gratitude. Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, who is known as a leading researcher in the field, defines positive psychology as “the scientific study of human strengths and virtues.” Alongside gratitude, positive psychology includes delving deeper into compassion, self-esteem, self-confidence, and positive traits and emotions.
Research shows that actively practicing gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal lowers stress and anxiety and helps build emotional awareness. Another study found that participants who felt grateful had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They were also more resilient to negative emotional setbacks.
2. Enhancing Positive Emotions
Positive emotions can benefit you beyond being friendly and kind to others. Evidence suggests that positive emotions, especially gratitude, can help people to engage in positive behaviors that lead to self-improvement. Cultivating positive emotions through gratitude can allow an individual to tap into a healthier mindset by increasing connectedness and humility.
3. Improving Relationships
Have you ever felt taken for granted in a relationship? Maybe your partner doesn’t say thank you for cooking dinner, or you just feel like you’re not appreciated. Feeling like this in a relationship can lead to harmful effects down the road.
Gratitude can be a gateway to better connection and positivity, supporting healthy relationships. Cultivating gratitude can lead to more positive emotions, giving you the opportunity to build healthy interpersonal relationships. How you value others is an essential aspect of fostering connection.
Here are some tips for expressing appreciation in relationships:
- Tell your partner exactly what you are thankful for as it happens
- Incorporate small gestures into your day that you know your partner will appreciate
- Share compliments with each other
4. Building Resilience
Emotional resilience is your ability to adapt to a stressful situation. Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t experience pain, but you can adapt and cope with the ups and downs that life throws at you. Building resilience can help to combat factors that increase the risk of developing mental health conditions.
Research suggests that gratitude lessened mental health issues and fostered positivity during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developing resilience with a gratitude practice allows you to tap into a positive outlet to cope and process emotions. By helping you to see the positive in your life and improving positive recall, gratitude can help you to become more resilient in tough times. A key part of gratitude is encouraging individuals to recall the positive parts of life rather than focusing on the negative ones.
Practical Tips And Techniques For Practicing Gratitude
Creating a gratitude ritual or routine is a great way to get into the habit of practicing gratitude. First, think about gratitude in two parts:
- Recognition – think about what you have and what you take for granted. Be honest with yourself. Do you have food to eat, a roof over your head, a partner who cares for you? These are all things to be grateful for.
- Acknowledgment – as you start to think about what you appreciate in your life, you can express that gratitude. Let the people in your life know you are grateful for them.
There are plenty of simple ways you can start to practice gratitude throughout your daily routine. Try these tips:
- Practice gratitude journaling
- Tell someone you appreciate them
- Smile more
- Do one kind thing a day
- Consume positive media
- Try to complain less
- Avoid gossiping about others
- Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth
- Value friendships you do have
Combining gratitude and mindfulness together may help you to feel more present and help you to sit in the moment. By using both together, they can allow you to be aware of how you feel without judgment, focus on the positive, and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Cultivating a Grateful Mindset: Overcoming Challenges and Negativity
Maintaining a positive outlook is better for you than you may think. A positive attitude has been linked to lower stress, better problem-solving abilities, and good overall well-being. Developing a grateful mindset and actively practicing gratitude can help to improve positive emotions, enhance resilience, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Positive thinking gives you the opportunity to see the better side of a challenge or stressful event. Instead of seeing a failure, it’s a chance to learn something new and grow. A cycle of negativity where individuals dwell and ruminate on negative feelings can worsen existing conditions like depression and anxiety
Gratitude can form part of your mental health toolbox. These are the behaviors you practice to bolster good mental health and cope with all those stressors life throws your way. Whether you’re in the depths of struggling with your mental health or feel on top of the world, finding outlets for stress and developing emotional resilience supports overall well-being.
As much as gratitude and positivity are important, gratitude is not a miracle cure. Loss, depression, and heartbreak are hard. You have to feel these things, as painful as they can be. Ups and downs are a part of life that all of us have to face. Speaking to a mental health professional can help you build your mental health toolkit when you feel good and learn to cope and treat mental health issues as they arise.
At Thriving Center of Psychology, our compassionate therapists formulate a tailored treatment plan to address your concerns. As experts in their fields, our therapists tap into their experience, skills, and training to support your mental health journey. Book an appointment online, call one of our offices, or fill out our Therapist Matchmaker Survey to find the best therapist for your needs.