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February 1, 2014
by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

Gratitude – the Key to Good Mental Health

February 1, 2014 02:55 by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

An Attitude for Gratitude

We have heard a lot about gratitude lately. It is not only in vogue for the Thanksgiving holiday season, but research suggests that gratitude is good for your emotional well being. One of the reasons gratitude is considered effective for managing moods is that it requires us to remain in the moment and focused on the positive. It has long been believed that we can crowd out negative thoughts that result in depression and anxiety by focusing on the positive and living in the present moment.

There are many ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. They include tried and true methods that we tend to forget.

1.       Express your thanks in a personal note, or better yet a phone call or visit. Anytime we express our thanks and appreciation for a person or something specific someone has done for or given us, it strengthens our relationship and builds goodwill.  This is especially important to remember with our closest loved ones. Couples often find that they take each other for granted, neglecting to say the words of appreciation and affirmation the other so desperately needs to hear. Men in particular say they do not feel appreciated by their partners – something to remember. Parents should also remember to express thanks to their children, and vice versa.

2.       Keep a journal of appreciation and gratitude. Writing about the things that you are grateful for and the things that you appreciate will keep them foremost in your mind. When you are faced with a challenge or encounter difficulty, it helps to recall the positive things that are going on in your life. We draw strength from the cumulative effect of the positive things in our lives. Documenting each one daily is a great way to remember that things are not as bad as they could be, and often better than we thought.

3.       Name three things that went well today. This is a good activity to do at the end of the day as a review. Many people do this before bed so they end the day on a positive note. It is also a great activity to do with your children.

4.       Develop a family ritual.  Each evening ask everyone in the family to take turns talking about three (or more) good things that happened during the day. If you really want to teach your children something that develops positive mental health, give each one a journal and ask them to write three good things from their day and then share it out loud with the family.

5.       Spend time in meditation, devotion or prayer. Many people spend their time in prayer and meditation focusing on their blessings. You can speak your appreciation and gratitude out loud or simply focus your attention on the things you are thankful for during this time.

The Benefits of Being Thankful

Research indicates that people who practice gratitude show many positive benefits. There are health benefits, mental health benefits and interpersonal benefits associated with an attitude of gratitude. Among those are:

Health Benefits:

·         Better sleep

·         Better self care, including more exercise

·         Fewer physical complaints

·         Stronger immune system

·         Lower blood pressure

Mental Health Benefits:

·         Reportedly happier

·         Feeling of alertness

·         Experience more joy in life

·         Reportedly feel more positive emotions

·         Fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation

·         Manage stress more effectively

Interpersonal Benefits:

·         More feelings of compassion

·         Able to forgive others

·         More sociable

How to Get Started

1.       Do it now! Stop reading and name three good things that have happened in your life in the past 24 hours.

2.       Write it down. Go out an buy a journal, notebook or binder and write down three things that happen each day. As you write, take time to savor those things, and realize that the outcome could have been different.

3.       Tell somebody. Every day, make a point to tell someone how much you appreciate them or say thank you for something someone does for you.

4.       Make a commitment. Commit to a regular gratitude practice and implement it today. Whether you write about it, pray or meditate about it, make a point to express your thanks and appreciation or all of these, commit to do it daily.

5.       Review your gratitude list regularly. Take a few minutes at the end of each week to review your gratitude list (written or remembered). You will notice that the more you focus on what is going right in your life, other things seem more manageable. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"10 Ways to Become More Grateful." Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

"Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude." Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

"In Praise of Gratitude." Harvard Health Publications, Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

"Why Gratitude Is Good." Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

About the Author

LuAnn Pierce, LCSW LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

I offer solution-focused counseling to people in Colorado and Wyoming from the comfort of your own home via teleconference or telephone.

LuAnn Pierce, LCSW can be found at
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