How gratitude helps mental health
Uncertainty, change and challenges are part of life. Whilst we can’t change external factors, we can change how we feel about them and how well we handle what life throws at us. In this post, we want to dive deeper into how gratitude can foster wellbeing and help us care for our mental health.
Especially in times of uncertainty like we are experiencing right now with the local lockdown in Sydney, it’s essential to take care of our mental health and prioritise behaviours that will contribute to our wellbeing. Stress, worries and anxiety can take over at times like this. But with some simple mindfulness activities, you can help protect your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Gratitude has long been believed to lead to a life well-lived. Ancient texts worldwide tell of the importance of gratitude in helping us live with a content mind and joy-filled heart. Psychological studies have meanwhile indicated that there is a link between gratitude and a sense of wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown the different effects gratitude has on our mental health and how practising gratitude can improve our understanding of happiness.
But what exactly is gratitude? It’s a broad concept that can be defined as an appreciation for things that give meaning and value to our life. It also represents a general feeling of gratitude and thankfulness. Gratitude is also a very personal concept. It’s highly unique to the individual what they perceive to be meaningful and valuable to their lives.
Gratitude can be practised for an extensive range of things. These can range from small things such as experiencing positive emotions from the smell of coffee/freshly baked bread or the more significant things in life such as being grateful for people in your life or the appreciation for having a cosy home to come back to, day after day.
Below we put together some ideas for practising gratitude in your life:
Gratitude journal: Write down 3 things each day you are grateful for. Over time this will become a gratitude record for you. It will serve as a reminder of all the positive things that have happened to you.
Thank someone: Write a letter, a short message or give a call to someone to tell them how they have positively impacted your life and how much you appreciate them.
Count your blessings: Once a day mentally, take count of all the things you are grateful for. This could be essential things such as an appreciation for the job you have or small things such as a new leaf growing on your indoor plant. Being happy with what we have positively impacts how we feel about our life.
Make a plan today to include some of these positive behaviours into your daily life, and you will soon feel a difference in your wellbeing.
We want to note that whilst gratitude can promote your mental wellbeing, it’s important to know that there are times in life when seeking mental health care is necessary. A health care professional can support you in managing life’s challenges and can be of great assistance in challenging times.
Please note that this blog post is in no way suggesting clinical intervention and cannot be taken as a substitute for seeking professional support for mental health. Please speak to your GP or a health care professional if you are experiencing mental health struggles.
Froh, J. J., Bono, G., & Emmons, R. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivation and Emotion, 34(2), 144-157.
Rash, J. A., Matsuba, M. K., & Prkachin, K. M. (2011). Gratitude and well‐being: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention?. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 3(3), 350-369.
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and Wellbeing. The Benefits of Appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 7 (11), 18-22.