Express Gratitude to Build Wellness

Express Gratitude to Build Wellness

Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving is fast approaching. While this is a traditional time of year to give thanks, there are good reasons to make it a regular habit. Expressing gratitude on a daily basis, year round, can help support mental wellness.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality or feeling of being thankful or grateful. In the world of mental health, it means consciously noticing or identifying things that we are happy for. This could be in the form of mindfulness practice, or taking time to keep a diary of things for which you are grateful.

How can the practice of gratitude improve mental health?

When we are depressed or anxious, we have a tendency to focus our attention on the negative. Whether that’s worrying about the future, or lamenting the past, our attention is often biased. By shifting our attention to highlight and attend to the positive, we can gradually shift the way we feel about the world. Think of highlighting gratitude as a way to take off the glasses of depression or anxiety that might color the way that you see the world. We are shifting our attention to the positives, and allowing those to become our focus.

Is there research to support gratitude as being effective?

Numerous scientific studies that indicate that gratitude is helpful for mental wellness. Keeping a gratitude journal can specifically help improve well-being by having positive effects on sleep, exercise, and even eating habits. One study found that amongst patients coping with chronic pain, increased gratitude correlated with reduced depression. It also correlated with improved sleep, which in turn caused reduced anxiety. Expressing gratitude may give your brain a hit of dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that tells your brain to do something again.

How should I integrate the practice of giving thanks in my daily life?

Recognizing and highlighting gratefulness can help you sleep better. One way it does this is by filling you with positive thoughts before bed. We suggest taking a few minutes before you get ready to turn in for the night to jot down some thoughts down. One approach is to note: (1) something you enjoyed that day, (2) something you are grateful for, and (3) something that satisfied you.

You could do this in Pacifica by journaling. We also have a meditation activity focused on gratitude which you could practice. You could also just jot down some thoughts in a traditional journal. Another option is to set some time aside to meditate every evening. We suggest trying a few different approaches, seeing which resonates most with you, and making it a habit.