As we approach the Thanksgiving season, it is interesting to take a look at gratitude and how it affects our mental health. Many of us acknowledge the goodness in our lives and are thankful especially at Thanksgiving. Yet, being grateful on a consistent basis has been shown to positively impact us in our relationships and our mental health. It can even help to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
Exactly how does gratitude improve our mental health? For starters, it can help people sleep better. Many mental illnesses are linked to disturbed sleep. Those who are grateful focus on the positive and by counting their blessings at bedtime are helping to fight off anxiety and depression. They are also able to fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality. Studies show that people who express gratitude more often have fewer physical symptoms, less pain, and more energy as well.
Gratitude helps people recognize that goodness can be larger than themselves by recognizing other people, nature, or a higher power. It can assist people in becoming more social and even developing healthier relationships. The positive social relationships are also associated with improved coping skills which in turn encourage resiliency.
The most common way to improve your gratitude is by making a simple gratitude list or keeping a diary focusing on the things you are most grateful for each day. Try writing the list by hand instead of on a computer or a cell phone and set a realistic goal for the number of items on your list each day. It may take time to make it part of your daily practice, but eventually it will become routine.
By trying to be grateful on a more consistent basis, we can help to improve our lives mentally, physically, and socially. Gratitude may not only change our perspective, but can help us to appreciate the positive in life on a daily basis. In the words of writer, William Arthur Ward, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, routine jobs into joys, and ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.