As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us focus on the things we are grateful for. Our families and support systems. Security in having a roof over our heads at the end of the day. Food on the table. Financial security. There are many things to be grateful for each and every day. But how often do you practice gratitude outside of the month of November? Today we want to talk about the case for gratitude, and how consistent practice can affect your mental health for the positive.
At its core, gratitude is the way we acknowledge the good and positive things in our lives. It’s a way to stop and be in the moment and just be appreciative of where we are. The beautiful thing about practicing gratitude is that in the majority of cases, it can help us feel happier – especially in moments of anxiety and grief. Think of it as an ultimate form of coping and healing, as it forces us to think and be present in the now.
Gratitude and Happiness
The ties between gratitude and happiness are layered. From simply saying “thank you” to keeping a gratitude list, all forms of gratitude help us sustain relationships, face obstacles, and bounce back from the lows with inspiration and strength. When we express gratitude to both others and ourselves, an array of positive emotions result. Optimism, selflessness, spirituality, empathy, and self-esteem are just a few of the positive emotions we experience when practicing gratitude. These positive feelings can help cancel out or at least pause conditions like anxiety and depression – both of which stem from a certain amount of unhappiness.
Gratitude and Our Health
Did you know that gratitude has been linked to less stress, better sleep, and better health? Since gratitude can help create more positive psychology, in turn, it also creates a more positive mental and physical being. When you are inspired by the positive things going on in your own life, you also tend to have more energy and enthusiasm to put in the extra work.
The practice of gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine helps regulate mood, muscle movement, and helps trigger the brain’s reward system. Serotonin, on the other hand, has been shown to affect mood, body temperature, and appetite. Meaning that when we practice gratitude, we strengthen those connections with the brain. Ultimately leading to a positive and permanent natural sense of gratitude within ourselves.
Ways You Can Practice Gratitude
Here are a few different ways you can practice gratitude not just in November but all year round:
- Keep a gratitude journal – each day write down 1-5 things you are grateful for. You can return to them during times of grief, anxiety, and other negative mental spaces.
- Complimenting oneself – make a practice of verbalizing the things you are grateful for about yourself. It’s not enough to be thankful for what’s around you but also what you as an individual bring to the world.
- Sending thank you notes/tokens of appreciation – how great does it feel when someone takes time out of their day to show their appreciation for you? Imagine how much greater it will feel to be the person showing appreciation.
- Volunteer – it sounds simple but helping those less fortunate can help you feel even more appreciative of all the things you do have.
Need Help Finding Gratitude?
Reversing the flow of negative thoughts is a difficult task, but it isn’t impossible. And it’s definitely easier when you have someone walking the path with you. If you feel you are struggling, know you aren’t alone, and we want to join you on your journey! Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you navigate your personal roadblocks. Remember, health is a cycle — but you get to determine the direction it goes!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Dave Lori – LPC
Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years. His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.