Gratitude – the Practice of Dwelling on the Good

Gratitude is not easily described and defined, though it is commonly referred to as an orientation of thinking, a worldview in which someone pays attention to and is grateful for positive experiences, events and people in their life.  Gratitude is positively and strongly associated to a sense of greater overall wellbeing, mental health, lower dysfunction (less likely to experience anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and others), improved physical health and relationships and a higher rating of happiness (Wood et al., 2010). Research has also shown that for couples, telling your partner what you are grateful for about them and expressing gratitude towards them improved the grateful partner’s perception and view of their partner and also made it more comfortable for them to bring up issues and concerns (Wood et al., 2010). In a study in which participants were asked to journal daily about either 1) irritations, 2) things they are grateful for, or 3) what happened that day, the group that wrote about what they were grateful for experienced 50-percent more happiness than the group that wrote about irritations and aggravations (Emmons & McCullough, 2002). In such a time as this in our world in which there is much worry, fear, uncertainty, division and unrest, it is so easy to focus on what is wrong, how 2020 went to hell in a handbasket, and wait for and notice the next bad thing to happen.  However, my challenge to you is to focus on the good things.  Even if it’s just for a few moments of your day.  The small, free, great pleasures in life.  The people in your past or present that have supported and loved you and contributed to your wellbeing.  The relationships and roles that give you meaning.  The food and drinks you love. The home you live in. Your favorite blanket, sweatshirt, scent, sunlight, your child, a good book, a grandparent, good music, nature, freedom, your pet, fresh air. People who practice gratitude are grateful for things that they do not always feel they deserve, but they have been given. This could be opportunities, forgiveness, success, love, family, relationships, health, or a career.  It is also more likely this connects the person to something outside of themselves, whether it is people, a community, or a higher power.  This connection to something outside ourselves typically results in a greater sense of purpose, meaning and belonging. During this holiday season, which starts off very fittingly with Thanksgiving, there are many different emotions and it can be both a joyous and difficult time of the year.  One thing that you can do to improve your overall wellbeing and mood this season is to practice gratitude on a daily basis.  Here are a few ways you can integrate this into your everyday life…
  • Write a thank you note, text message or letter to someone for whom you are grateful.
  • Keep a gratitude journal – write 1-3 positive things that you are grateful for each day.
  • Volunteer and give back to people that are in need – giving back helps connect you to a greater sense of purpose and meaning and can remind you of your blessings.
  • Meditate and focus on something that you are grateful for as you practice breathing and staying present in the here-and-now in your body.
  • Tell your partner, child, family member or friend what you appreciate about them and how they make your life better.
I am here as a support for you in regards to your mental health and relationships. I am so incredibly grateful for the work I have the privilege of doing and for my clients, who allow me into their lives and who teach me so much.