Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Gratitude is the new mental health regulator, start to learn the skill of appreciation
Practise Gratitude Expression
Gratitude is a critical influencer in building positive cognitive connections within your brain. The well-known expression "count your blessings" might sound like a cliché; however, it is a highly effective way of bringing greater calm to mind and helps broaden your positive thought repertoire. People tend to think of the negative things during moments of extreme anxiety. Instead, try shifting your focus onto the things in your life for which you are thankful; see what is right with your life and the world. The more things you notice, the more you will expand your grateful mind, and the better off you will feel. Showing gratitude is sometimes a required or expected thing but at other times, a spontaneous “thank you” to someone who has unknowingly made our day. On most occasions, we show gratitude to bring the good feelings we have been gifted back to the gifter. While it is admirable to want to share our gratitude and good feelings with others, we rarely stop to think about what giving others our gratitude does for us. It does quite a lot for our brains and mental well-being as it turns out. There are several research studies to showcasing the vast benefits.
My experience with clients has taught me that giving appreciation is personal, so find the method that works for you. As long as you embrace positive feelings of thankfulness, each day, in whatever modality you choose, you are sure to feel the effects of opening your mind to gratitude. I can hear you ask, “how is this going to help me heal my anxious thoughts?” Well, by bringing heart centred practices into your life, you are always boosting your happy hormones, such as dopamine, and balancing cortisol release within your body. If you remember, your hormones are affected when you are in prolonged states for stress and anxiety. Feeling a sense of gratefulness will help activate a repertoire of positive intent and build a new creative side to your thinking scope. Besides, this is also helping you see the other side of your life and the people around you, that you sometimes do not see, maybe due to anxiety and fear being dominant. Have a look at the next few gratitude practices, and see if you can make a commitment to start at incorporating them into your life. They are a beneficial starting point for practising and utilising gratitude.
Create a “three good things” section within a daily gratitude journal
Of course, this assumes you already keep a gratitude diary to recognise and celebrate all the good things in your day. If you don’t, you can still take a few minutes every day to give yourself some credit for being you, and for the things you have achieved. Writing down a few things you are grateful for is one of the easiest and most popular exercises available.Each week, aim to write or acknowledge three good things you feel grateful for about yourself and the world around you. Note down the things you’ve done well, the choices you’ve made that you are proud of, the progress you’ve made, and even the things that required no action at all – for example, the time you gave yourself to simply be. Or when you felt appreciation to another for their support and kindness. Or you can go further and reflect upon all the simple things in life, shelter, warmth, a bed, connection, love etc.
When journaling becomes a task, and you are not enjoying the practice, you need to adjust the journaling you do.
Remember, gratitude should come from your heart and feel good. Try to pay attention to what you are grateful for becomes more comfortable as you practice it. Try to imagine your life without the things or people that matter to you before writing. That should definitely boost your gratitude barometer and get you in a good state ready.
This exercise may sound a little silly. You may be thinking, "A rock? How can a rock help me practise gratitude?" Some clients have been quite creative with gratitude in the past and have picked a stone one that holds residency, and when they have touched the stone, they draw into all the grateful things felt in their life- usually at the end of each day. This is a unique way of incorporating gratitude into your life. The secret to this exercise is that the rock is a symbol, a physical object you can use, to remind yourself of what you have.The instructions are about as simple as instructions can be: just find a rock!Make sure to pick the one you like, whether you like it because it's pretty because it is smooth or has an interesting texture, or because you picked it up from a special place. Make sure it connects with you. If you have another small object you’d rather use instead, feel free to substitute that for the rock. Maybe a special healing crystal such as an Amethyst stone?
Try this: Each day carry this rock around in your pocket, or bag, leave it on your desk where you will see it throughout your day. Whenever you see it or touch it, pause to think about at least one thing you are grateful for. Whether it's something as small as the sun shining down on you at this moment or as large as the job that allows you to feed yourself or your family, just think of one thing that brings you joy or fulfilment. When you take your stone out of your pocket or off of your body at the end of the day, take a moment to remember the things that you were grateful for throughout the day. When you put it on or in your pocket, or bag again in the morning, repeat this process to remember what you were grateful for yesterday. Not only will this help you remember the things you are thankful for, but also it can trigger a mini-mindfulness moment in your day. It will bring you out of your head and into the present moment, giving you something to focus your attention on. It can also act as a switch to more positive thinking. When you flip this switch multiple times a day, you will likely find that your average day has become much more positive and start to introduce positive heartfelt emotions into your life.
This part of gratitude is a really empowering and heartfelt approach. It is an act of giving appreciation and thanks to people within you live, including yourself that have significantly impacted you, help you in moments of need, or simply make you smile or remind you of who you are. Thus can be another that feels fundamental to you and your life.
Think back to a time, or maybe in this here and now. Is there anyone that you would like to express your appreciation to or thanks to? Go to that space in your mind, and connect back with how you felt, what they did, what they sad that meant something to you? Really dig into the experience. If you are proud of yourself, about the way you handled a situation, or an accomplishment etc., you can use this experience. It is your expressive writing, so go to where you feel necessary. After you know the experience you want to express gratitude for, take a pen and paper, write a letter of thanks to that person, or yourself. Go into detail of every event and try to get into a positive space, as this will like. Here is an example of a gratitude letter to give you a starting point.
Have fun with building gratitude into your life, it is a wonderful and freeing emotion that has been proven to ease anxiety, depression and sleep issues and many more. Have fun expressing love and appreciation for your life.