By: Nicole Ball, LMSW Mental Health Therapist and Owner of Mental Wellness Counseling: A Traverse City Counseling Practice
Things are tough right now. Many of us are struggling to see the brighter side of things. When we do, it might come in waves; one day we are productive and feeling optimistic about the future, and the next we are crying and fearful about how long the health crisis will last. But practicing gratitude is a proven method that can help not only manage our immediate emotions, but also have lasting positive effects on the lens we see the world through.
Bring grateful is expressing emotion of appreciation and recognition. This can be done in many ways. It can be saying “thank you” to others, identifying what you are thankful for, or recognizing the efforts of others that you might otherwise take for granted. It could also be identifying those things within ourselves that others might see, but we often don’t view as a valuable part of ourselves.
By intentionally and regularly being grateful you are reinforcing the hormones connected to happiness. You are training your brain to be happier and to automatically recognize those things that you have to be grateful for. This will make us happier because it disconnects us from negative emotions.
There is much research that shows that purposely practicing gratitude increases physical health. This is seen in lowers negative hormones like Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine, as well as less inflammation, betters sleep and better eating habits.
When the lens we see the world through is tinted with feelings of gratitude and thankfulness it also strengths our relationships, helps us feel more satisfied with our roles or jobs and makes burnout less likely.
So, in the midst so much uncertainty, how can we do this?
Start a daily gratitude list. This is a great way to intentionally identify those things we are thankful for. Start every morning with a quick list of 5-10 things you are grateful for. It starts your day with a lens of happiness and hope. And when the day gets tough you can go back to your lists and review. By practicing this daily you will start to see the lasting effects in how you view the world around you, how you treat others and how you react emotionally to stress.
Send messages of thanks and support. Words have power. Send a message to someone thanking them for their relationship, their service, their skills or their support. Tell someone how much you appreciate them and value their role in your life or in your community. Spreading gratitude to others has immediate positive effects.
In a time when we might feel little control over our surroundings, this is another way that we can turn the focus to what we do have control over. We can control the lens we view an unpredictable world through and be grateful for the many things in our lives that keep us sustained and bring us joy.