Gratitude and Its Affects on Mental Health
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
The word gratitude comes from the Latin word 'gratia', which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness. While it encompasses each of these terms in one way or another, it also means acknowledging the good in your life. Taking time to appreciate positive things, events or moments can help you feel happier, more confident and less worried.
How does gratitude affect my mood?
Gratitude cultivates positive connections to external stimuli like people, nature or something greater. Why? The simple act of being thankful boosts serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. These 'feel-good' hormones encourage positive emotions, which lead to improved physical and mental health.
Taking care of our mental health is vital as we continue to physically distance ourselves from others, stay home and avoid non-essential travel. In truth the restrictions, stress and worry that come with the COVID-19 pandemic can push many beyond their ability to cope.
Scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds will quickly tell you how friends and acquaintances are coping with feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. While some posts may be entertaining or interesting it's important to recognize when someone might need a friendly call or text. Showing gratitude, thanks or appreciation for others not only helps them feel better and less alone, it can help you feel better too. If you're struggling right now, there are resources that can help—you are not alone.
Three ways to practice daily gratitude
If you're looking for an easy way to practice daily gratitude, try one of these ideas:
Have a thankful morning Start your day off on the right foot and be purposely thankful for the first five or ten things you notice or interact with. For example, 'I'm thankful for a warm bed to sleep in. I'm thankful for running water. I'm thankful for toothpaste. I'm thankful for my clothes. I'm thankful for food.' This practice not only helps you stay in the present moment, it helps set the tone for the day and increases your awareness of goodness.
Practice mindful meditation Mindful mediation is an opportunity to focus on the present moment, a positive thought or idea. According to research, meditation may improve sleep and ease symptoms of depression or anxiety. It may also lessen difficulties associated with chronic pain as well as improve cognitive and behavioral functions. Like my thoughts on journaling, there is no right or wrong way to meditate—just find a quiet space to sit or lie down and breathe.
Keep a gratitude journal I recently wrote about the benefits of journaling for working through tough issues or problems. But I think it's important to know that while your journal can be a cathartic space for problem-solving, it can also be a space for highlighting things that make you feel happy. If writing just isn't your thing you can also say positive things out loud to yourself or share them with someone. The end result is the same: more feelings of happiness.
I hope one of these ideas inspires you to give yourself a daily dose of gratitude.Thank you for sharing a few moments with me and thank you for reading this blog.
We are in this together. Stay safe, everyone.