Sometimes it feels like our brains overflow with too much negativity. Could gratitude be the answer to helping you with your mental health?
Practicing gratitude gives people a more optimistic mindset and elevates their moods. When you’re thankful, you see more good in life, which grounds you, helping you understand other emotions as they come your way. It also enables you to create better bonds with friends and family.
Gratitude is contagious. Once you start, you can’t stop. You can cultivate it by writing about it or with acts of kindness like when you send flowers to someone as a just because gift. The rest of this article will focus on how practicing gratitude will benefit your mental health and what you can do to start being thankful today!
What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude?
By nature, people are more likely to see the negative. Our brains are actually hardwired to notice negativity over positivity. This phenomenon is called negative bias, and its roots come from our ancestors having to use negative thinking to survive predators.
While negativity can help in some circumstances, people seem overly fueled by it. News outlets even purposefully choose negative headlines to grab readers’ attention. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves everyone feeling worn out and anxious. No wonder 1 in 5 Americans suffers from issues with mental health.
A little gratitude, however, can help shift your mindset. Gratitude is a mindset to perceive the good aspects of life. It’s a positive emotion and a recognition of thankfulness.
People who practice gratitude experience mental health benefits like:
- An optimistic mindset
- Elevated moods
- Improved relationships
Gratitude Gives You An Optimistic Mindset
When you’re grateful, you tend to feel more positive overall. Gratitude is the practice of looking back and being thankful- but optimism is when you look forward with hope. Grateful people feel more optimistic about their futures.
Negativity and anxiety go hand-in-hand. These emotions make you look back at past failures or problems and see them in your future.
Gratitude is the solution. It opens the doors for you to experience the richness and beauty that life offers, which leads to more motivation to get things done, like eating better and exercising.
Gratitude Lifts Your Mood
Try to picture a grateful person in a bad mood- you can’t. Besides having a more optimistic mindset, practicing gratitude helps lift and regulate your emotions.
Gratitude grounds you. It allows you to take a breath and see things differently and more clearly.
Thinking more clearly will allow you to have more control over your emotions. You’ll understand more about your feelings and why you feel that way. Overall, it will give you freedom and serenity regarding your feelings, no matter what you experience.
Gratitude Improves Your Relationships
Humans are inherently social creatures– we need to bond with others to survive and thrive. A lack of community makes us feel separated or lonely, which leads to poor mental health.
Practicing gratitude helps you bridge that lonely gap you may feel. When you are thankful, love and kindness seep out of everything you do and into the people around you.
Showing gratefulness for the people around you is key. When you truly value and appreciate someone, you will have a closer and stronger bond.
Being grateful for others helps remind us that we are not alone and that even through our vulnerabilities, we have each other to lean on.
How to Practice Gratitude Daily
When you start your gratitude journey, you might not see results immediately. The pursuit of happiness takes time and dedicated practice- but it will be worthwhile. That’s why it is important to find ways to practice gratitude daily.
Here are two great ideas for cultivating your daily gratitude practice:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Counting your blessings leads to a better outlook, so why not write down the things you’re thankful for?
Gratitude journals are very popular for people looking to get a good mindset. You only need a notebook, a pen, and a specified time. It’s best to pick a specific time to write in your journal daily to hold yourself accountable. For example, you could write for 15 minutes every morning before work with your morning coffee.
There’s no wrong way to start your gratitude journal. It’s totally up to your preference and what works best for you. However, we have some helpful tips for you to get started:
- Be specific – You’ll foster more gratitude by explaining why you’re thankful in detail.
- Be personal – While it’s great to be thankful for the roof over your head or your favorite blanket, being grateful for the people in your life will help open your eyes to more gratitude.
- View things as gifts – Seeing the good stuff in your life as a gift will prevent you from taking them for granted.
- Avoid too much repetition – It’s great to be thankful for your sweet coworker, Debbie, for bringing cupcakes. However, when you notice you’re repeating the same stuff in your journal, you should pivot and write about another aspect or detail of that person or thing.
2. Acts of Kindness
A simple act of kindness can go a long way. Not only will it cultivate your gratitude, but it also puts more good in the world and gives someone else a reason to be thankful!
Here are some examples of acts of kindness you can do:
- Send a letter or card to someone you have not seen in a while and tell them how much you appreciate them.
- Pay for the person in line behind you for food or coffee.
- Surprise someone with a gift
- Pick up trash littered in a park.
- Compliment someone.
- Tell people “thank you” when they help you, such as cashiers, maintenance workers, etc.
When you cultivate daily gratitude practice, you’ll find yourself in a better and more peaceful mindset. The world will feel more manageable, and you’ll start to notice all those little things that make life truly wonderful.