Gratitude is an effective mental health recovery tool
Studies have shown there is a powerful and effective tool we can all use to help foster a happy and healthy life. It has been proven to have physiological and spiritual benefits that can improve overall physical health. When practiced daily, it increases self-confidence and strengthens relationships. Best of all, it doesn’t require a visit to the doctor or medications and doesn’t cost a thing.
It is simply gratitude.
We tend to think of thankfulness this time of year but being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life. Gratitude is all about focusing our attention on what is going right in our lives instead of what is or might be wrong. By shifting the focus to the positive and away from the negative, our brains will get into the habit of good thoughts, which will in turn lead to an overall more fulfilling life with greater forgiveness and happiness.
The essence of gratitude helps to change several aspects of our lives, not just the mental ones. It can do wonders for our physical health, such as reducing blood pressure, headaches and aches and pains, and promotes better sleep. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis changes perspective of day-to-day issues and facilitates contentment and life satisfaction.
Here are some ideas and tips to help get started.
- Count your blessings. Start a gratitude journal and write down one to three things per day, ideally first thing in the morning to jumpstart positive thinking. If something negative happens try taking out your journal and writing down all the good that you have around you – physical, mental, relational, spiritual, etc.
- Give thanks. Send notes to those in your life that have made a positive impact. This could take the form of an e-mail, text, call, or a written letter. When you express appreciation to someone else, it can help them practice gratitude, too.
- Meditate. The practice of daily mindfulness meditation that quiets the noise around us and allows us to focus our mind on positive thoughts and gratefulness helps us to work through and release the negative.
- Give back. Volunteering or doing something for others can give an extra boost to your gratitude practice. You can also find yourself making new friends while building up your fellow volunteers.
- Appreciate the small things. Focus on what is important and not on changing situations. Everyone will experience big events in their lives that take us down to a dark place; but even in those moments, there are smaller things outside of the big that we can always count on.
The upcoming holidays can bring great joy for some but also great stress or sadness for others. No matter which way you feel, finding your ideal practice can help sustain a healthier future for yourself and those around you. If you find that you or someone you know can’t seem to recover from negative thoughts, it may be time to consider seeing a professional. The staff and programs at Community Care Services can help assist in any mental health and/or recovery needs for all individuals.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.