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Although keeping a gratitude journal and listing all the things you are grateful for may seem a bit “woo woo,” there are some health benefits that have been scientifically proven to occur from expressing your gratitude for the things in life that bring you joy, whether it’s a satisfying sandwich or a strong relationship with a loved one.

But what precisely is appreciation? Explore what it means to be grateful, as well as the links between gratitude and mental health that have been supported by research. You’ll also get advice on how to practice gratitude and what to do when it seems like too little help all by itself. Keep reading.

What Is Gratitude?

Granted that everyone’s definition of thankfulness varies slightly, it is generally understood to be a mindset or quality that enables one to see and value the good and significant parts of life.

As noted by Dani Moye, Ph.D., an East Windsor, Connecticut-based certified marital and family therapist and founder of Harmony Cove Therapy, gratitude can also be defined as an emotion of recognition and thankfulness.

So, how can you determine whether something makes you grateful? Dr. Moye asserts that while we are experiencing gratitude, we approach that aspect of life with awareness, care, and attention.

Another way to think about thankfulness is that, according to San Francisco-based licensed clinical psychologist Nathan Brandon, Psy.D., it frequently evokes warm, pleasant feelings like happiness, love, and joy. He goes on, “It’s the antithesis of emotions like resentment, envy, and regret.” He goes on to say that having a grateful disposition may also make you more giving and empathetic to other people.

5 Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude

Boost Mental Health with Gratitude
Boost Mental Health with Gratitude

Although numerous researches have connected practicing thankfulness to better physical health—lower blood pressure, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and less stress, to mention a few advantages—it can also have a significant positive impact on mental health.

Gratitude Can Help Regulate Your Emotions

Studies indicate that the capacity to recognize and control one’s emotions is influenced by thankfulness, and there may even be a connection between emotional intelligence and gratitude.

According to Dr. Moye, “the things that are making us feel sad or worried are minimized when we focus our attention on the good in our lives.” No matter what we encounter, this [view] can help us feel emotionally liberated and at peace.

Gratitude Can Elevate Your Mindset

According to study, people who are grateful—which is a pleasant emotion in and of itself—tend to feel happier all around. According to some research, incorporating acts of appreciation into psychotherapy sessions can also aid in the promotion of a positive cognitive mentality since the emphasis is shifted from negative to positive experiences.

Though it may take some time to experience the benefits of positive thinking, pursuing happiness may be a worthy and fruitful endeavor with effort. According to Dr. Moye, “it [can] become easier to reframe our thinking in difficult moments of life as we develop a relationship with gratitude.”


Gratitude Can Help You Feel More Connected to Others

As per Dr. Brandon, “having gratitude may make people feel more connected to the world and other people, which can lead to increased happiness and decreased loneliness.”

That is supported by research, which shows that being grateful can support emotional intimacy and the upkeep of strong links in both intimate and non-intimate relationships. According to more research, expressing thankfulness and strengthening social ties at the same time may lessen emotions of isolation and disconnection.

Gratitude Can Motivate You Toward Better Outcomes

According to Dr. Moye, when you are grateful for anything, your results usually mirror and validate your gratitude. She gives the following example: “When we are grateful for our endurance, it will show in the way we eat and move.”

According to research, practicing thankfulness may really have a more favorable effect. They have been shown to stimulate prosocial behavior, which is the act of assisting others, in addition to health-promoting habits like eating a healthy diet. Prosocial activity has an additional advantage, according to Dr. Brandon: it may result in more social support—that is, friends and acquaintances who are willing and able to assist you—which is another element connected to better mental health.

Gratitude Can Help Protect You From the Effects of Stress

Researchers have long recognized the link between enhanced mental health during stressful situations and appreciation. A study discovered that at the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak, when stress and anxiety levels were significantly higher for many people, experiencing greater gratitude was linked to lower stress levels[1].

“Being thankful helps us return to our inner knowing that we are in charge of our tranquility through the decisions we make about how we handle stress,” explains Dr. Moye.

Expert Tips for Practicing Gratitude for Mental Health

Considering all those advantages, you might be searching for some easy methods to increase your sense of gratitude. The favorable tidings? According to Dr. Brandon, it’s simple to include gratitude into your daily practice.

Boost Mental Health with Gratitude
Boost Mental Health with Gratitude

These are some suggestions from Drs. Moye and Brandon for cultivating thankfulness in your life.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

According to Dr. Brandon, “making time every day to think about the things you’re grateful for can help increase overall well-being and life satisfaction.” It’s not necessary to list all of your blessings in writing, either. Dr. Moye says that all it takes is a few minutes each day to write down a few things for which you are grateful.

Appreciate the Intangible

The emotion of gratitude you get when someone gives you a gift is one typical way to express gratitude. However, as was already noted, there are various interpretations of thankfulness, and ultimately, it boils down to appreciating and expressing your gratitude for everything that gives you significance or value.

According to Dr. Moye, “true gratitude is derived from a place of humility and does not require the attachment of something tangible.”

Honor the Present Moment

It can be challenging to appreciate the gift of calm and rest in a world that is constantly on the go and fixated on social media, but appreciation can help. According to Dr. Moye, “having gratitude helps us slow down our nervous system and give ourselves permission to feel joy.”

Perform Acts of Kindness for Others

According to Dr. Brandon, acts of kindness include picking up litter, volunteering, and paying it forward—which may be as easy as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you.

When Gratitude Doesn’t Work

Many people may find it difficult to practice thankfulness or may not notice any benefits at all, especially those who are dealing with mental health issues.

“Everyone has a unique relationship with gratitude, and some people struggle to live a life that fully incorporates it,” explains Dr. Moye. “Many factors—from genetics to personality traits—that we sometimes have no control over may be the cause of this [struggle].”

Dr. Brandon continues, “It’s crucial to keep in mind that gratitude is just one tool that can help improve mental health.” “It doesn’t mean that a person has failed if gratitude alone doesn’t seem to be enough,” he argues.

If you find it difficult to access thankfulness or other pleasant emotions due to persistent worries, anxiety, or depressive sensations, it might be time to see a mental health specialist. Although thankfulness is a beautiful feeling, it shouldn’t be used in place of counseling or medicine, particularly if you have a diagnosed illness like anxiety or depression.

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