The Impact of Gratitude on Well-Being
By: Kelley Maynard, LMHC
"Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough."
Gratitude in its simplest form can refer to the state of being grateful or thankful. It is the deeper appreciation for someone or something that brings goodness into our lives. The practice of gratitude is an active one, requiring conscious effort on our part. It involves directing our focus to those things we do have in life versus those we don’t. Practicing gratitude can help rewire our brain to attend to positive thoughts and emotions resulting in improved well-being.
With consistent practice of gratitude, there has shown to be a number of benefits for our physical, mental and social well-being. Research has found that those who practice gratitude tend to have fewer aches and pains, better sleep, a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone) and improved cardiac functioning. Mental benefits include increased happiness, decreased depression and anxiety, and better self-esteem. Gratitude can also have an impact on our social lives with evidence of stronger interpersonal relationships and increased empathy for others.
Below are a few strategies to actively practice gratitude in everyday life:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Set aside time each day to write about people or things for which you are grateful. Be specific and include details in your entries. Gratitude does not have to be saved for extraordinary moments and can often be found in everyday experiences such as appreciating the weather, a positive interaction with someone, or a delicious meal.
- Incorporate mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness skills can help us take time to pause during our day and be present in the moment. We can start to notice the details around us and better connect to ourselves. This increased awareness can help cultivate a sense of appreciation for our experience of life. Mobile apps, such as Headspace or Calm, can guide us in this practice.
- Connect with others. Gratitude carries a social element as well when we recognize that some of the goodness in our lives is related to what others have done for us. We can feel thankful for other people, nature, or a higher power. Another way to foster gratitude is by spending time with our loved ones, or writing thank-you notes to express appreciation.
Acknowledging the good we have in our lives can be a simple yet impactful way to improve our well-being. While it does not take away the hardships we’ve endured, it can help us appreciate those things we still have. The practice of gratitude can help ground us in the present and give us a sense of control during times of challenge and change. This can look different for everyone and it’s important to find a method that feels effective and comfortable for you. If anxiety, depression or stress are making it difficult to appreciate the good in life, Behavioral Health Partners are here to help.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Chowdhury, M. R. (2019, April 9). The neuroscience of gratitude and how it affects anxiety & grief. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
Maidenberg, M. P. (2020, October 10). Practicing gratitude is more important now than ever. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/being-your-best-self/202010/practicing-gratitude-is-more-important-now-ever
Keith Stein |