As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, one thing that’s important to talk about is the power of gratitude. All we have to do is look at the name of the holiday to remember to “give thanks” for all we have.
But what if we’re in a negative place? How are we supposed to feel grateful and give thanks when there’s not much to be grateful for?
We understand that the holidays can bring up feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and even depression. Let’s explore the concept of gratitude and the power that gratitude can have on our mental and physical health.
What is a gratitude practice and what are the benefits?
Gratitude is the practice of consciously directing your thoughts toward feelings of being grateful, present, or appreciative.
Of course, it’s pretty easy to feel gratitude when things are going well in life — when you have good health, work you enjoy, and positive relationships, for example.
But what about when things aren’t going well?
Is there even any point to having a gratitude practice? What if you’re not feeling grateful about anything?!
Well, scientific studies have shown that gratitude can elicit greater feelings of happiness, better mental and physical health, improved self-esteem, and other benefits.
Let’s look at a study published in Taylor & Francis. This study focused on patients who identified with having low levels of mental health.
There were three groups of people in the study:
Patients who received psychotherapy only.
Patients who received psychotherapy and practiced gratitude writing.
Patients who received psychotherapy and practiced expressive writing exercises.
Patients in the group that practiced gratitude writing reported a better improvement in their mental health compared to the other two groups!
An article in Harvard Health Publishing reports that giving thanks can actually make you happier. In positive psychology research studies, expressing gratitude is associated with greater happiness, positive feelings, and improved health and relationships.
How can you practice gratitude?
Gratitude can minimize negative thinking by moving our focus toward the positive. It can help us feel inspired, motivated, and optimistic about our futures.
The great thing is, we can practice gratitude any time, anywhere. One helpful exercise is to take a notebook and pen and write a few sentences about things you’re grateful for.
Perhaps your list might include:
Seeing a colorful sunset
Having a phone call or text conversation with a friend
Laughing at a funny movie
Reading an inspiring article or book
Okay, so you might be thinking, “Sure, practicing gratitude sounds easy in theory. But it’s hard to actually put it into practice.”
Barriers like this are totally normal. It does take some effort to practice gratitude and to make it a habit. We’re here to help you break through any resistance and discover the benefits that a gratitude practice can bring for you.
If you’d like more information about getting assistance with creating your own gratitude practice or you want someone to talk to, we’re here for you! Give us a call or text anytime at 502-385-4151.
Would you like to read more about us? Take a look at our Meet Us page.
Y. Joel Wong, Jesse Owen, Nicole T. Gabana, Joshua W. Brown, Sydney McInnis, Paul Toth & Lynn Gilman (2018) Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial, Psychotherapy Research, 28:2, 192-202, DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2016.1169332