Being grateful has gotten a bad wrap. From being told at the dinner table “you should be grateful for your peas, there are children starving in Africa!” to the obligatory classroom worksheet the day before Thanksgiving break, gratitude can seem like a chore. But did you know gratitude is actually an incredibly powerful self care tool?
Research over the past 15 years has shown us is that small practices of cultivating gratitude can lead to long-term gains in mental health. Even a practice as small as writing down three things you are grateful for each day for a week has been shown to improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression for months.
Perhaps even more remarkably, studies have shown that practicing gratitude can improve cardiovascular health. It turns out that a grateful heart is not only a happy heart, but also a healthy heart! Here is an excellent summary of recent research on gratitude: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#why-practice .
One of my own favorite practices has been filling a “One Line a Day” journal with things I am grateful for. These journals hold five years worth of treasures on each page, so if you keep this practice up, on December 18, 2022 you could be reading about the things you have been grateful for every year for the last five years! Journaling this way feels like a gift to my future self- both because of the mental health benefits of cultivating gratitude and because I am delighted each time I look back over the past few years.
Feeling gratitude when you are depressed, anxious, or just in a slump can be challenging. Sometimes it feels inauthentic, laborious, or like that obligatory pre-Thanksgiving worksheet. Are you having trouble seeing the bright side in life? Is it hard to count your blessings when you’re busy memorizing your worries? A day that feels like this is nothing out of the ordinary, but if you’re overwhelmed by the negative more days than not, now may be the time to talk to a therapist. Contact me now to schedule an appointment to help get you back to gratitude, joy, and wellbeing.