It may sound counterintuitive to think that during times of difficulty and struggle that engaging in a gratitude practice can enhance our mood; but research has shown that in moments when we are feeling low, overwhelmed, panicked and/or stuck practicing gratitude can help us to identify new perspectives or solutions, which can result in reduced anxiety and/or hopelessness. Gratitude has been linked to increased happiness and overall wellbeing in the lives of people who practice it regularly. Gratitude has also been shown to benefit people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, burnout and/or grief. Focusing on the things in our lives that helps us to feel thankful in turn helps us to focus more on the positives in our lives and in doing so we develop the resiliency needed to deal with challenges and to overcome negative thinking patterns. The honed skill of practicing gratitude becomes especially beneficial when we are faced with difficult times.
Gratitude also has a positive impact on our relationships with our loved ones; as we begin to reflect on the elements of the relationship that make us feel grateful we become more attuned to all of the things our loved ones do for us on a daily basis. These things could be as small as our partners or family members making coffee for us in the morning or it could be as big as someone being there for us when we are dealing with illness or sudden loss for example. Practicing gratitude can also help us to cultivate mindfulness and become more present in our lives. By noticing the things that we appreciate in our lives we might find ourselves becoming more focused on moment-to-moment experiences such as enjoying a beautiful sunny day or a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. By becoming more mindful and present focused we are in turn learning to slow down the frantic and panicked mind and become calmer. Practicing gratitude also increases our ability to feel content with what we have in our lives rather than focusing on what we are missing. When we become astute at counting our blessings rather than the things we are lacking or wanting we develop a sense of fulfilment and detachment from wanting more. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images and messages of things to buy, this practice can help us remember that we are not in need of all of the things which we have become conditioned to want to collect. Here are a few ways to practice gratitude.
Gratitude journals: for some people writing down their reflections and things which they are grateful for on a daily basis helps to create a routine, which in turn reinforces the regular practice of positive thinking.
Telling someone directly: the act of telling our loved ones directly why we are grateful for their presence in our lives or for something they have done for us improves our communication with them and can strengthen or deepen the relationship.
Reflection: some people prefer to engage in a reflection practice of thinking of 1-3 things from their day which they feel thankful for. This is also a cognitive reframing exercise which can strengthen the neural connections we make in our minds when thinking of something positive instead of ruminating over the negative experiences or frustrations we may have experienced in our day.
To learn more about how to engage in a practice of gratitude in your life or to get support in dealing with depression, anxiety, or other life stressors, please reach out to one of our professionals at (514) 223 5327.
Written by Marianne Chivi, MA, c.o.