Gratitude is a word we hear often. It can have different meanings, but the overall consensus is that it is a conscious practice with benefits to our general sense of well-being and overall quality of life.
Gratitude is a word we hear often. It can have different meanings, but the overall consensus is that it is a conscious practice with benefits to our general sense of well-being and overall quality of life. Sanson and Sanson defined gratitude as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” Using this definition, we can infer that gratitude is personal and it can help us understand why telling someone else to “just be grateful” or “you should be grateful for…” will likely not be effective.
Gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is a temporal feeling that some describe as a reaction to a specific event. As such, even though it generates a positive feeling, it fades over time. Gratefulness, on the other hand, is more of an intentional practice and mindset. It is an attitude, how we choose to experience life.
Gratitude, as a choice or lifestyle, provides long-term benefits to our mental health, and can even physically change the brain over time. Brown and Wong identified in their study that people who experience gratitude tend to have positive changes in the medial prefrontal cortex, possibly contributing to improvements in mental health. According to Baker, the expression of gratitude or even being the recipient of gratitude, promotes neuroplasticity as well as the release of dopamine and serotonin. If you are still not fully convinced, other benefits of practicing gratitude, as mentioned by Fulton, include boosting the immune system, improvement in relationships, increase in optimism, and as mentioned above, better mental health outcomes.
Yes, gratitude sounds amazing and I am grateful that there are easy ways to foster this practice.
Here are some ways to start your gratitude practice:
- Find gratitude in simple/everyday things (e.g. nature, a beautiful ray of sunshine, a comforting breeze, a cloud that sparks your imagination, a butterfly that surprises you, a bird greeting you).
- Acknowledge gratitude purposely (e.g. gratitude journal or board).
- Meditate (e.g. be with yourself and reflect on what makes you feel grateful).
- Verbalize gratitude in your social interactions (e.g. share with someone why you are grateful for them).
- Practice kindness
- Be thankful when you notice things that are happening and delight you.
- Consider participating in a gratitude challenge (e.g. the 100 Day Challenge: take one picture every day of something that made you smile or feel happy, keep it in a “gratitude folder”).
Gratitude improves our physical and mental health, as well as our relationships. It can be learned and taught to others. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It does not mean that you have to be grateful for every experience or negative situation in your life. It means that you are the one who decides where your attention will go and how to lead your life.
Mental Health Services at CHE
When mental health conditions impede a person’s ability to lead a normal life, both psychiatry and psychology can offer effective solutions for treatment and symptom relief.
If you are unsure which provider is best for your condition, contact your primary care physician to discuss the appropriate course of treatment.
CHE offers treatment for a variety of mental health issues virtually with our network of over 850 licensed psychologists, therapists and psychiatry providers. To learn more about our mental health services and qualified mental health professionals, please call 888-515-3834.