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. Some 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 they are by recognizing other people, nature, or a higher power. It can assist people in becoming more social and 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 focused 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 the late John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
Lori Atkinson, Operations Director for The Kim Foundation, http://www.thekimfoundation.org/
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools from 1992 – 2000, a stay at home mom for several years, and then started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory during 2010. Lori carries out many duties for The Kim Foundation which includes: scheduling presentations in the community, hosting booths at conferences, managing the Art & Creative Writing Contest, coordinating the School Resource Fair, organizing the Suicide Prevention PSA Contest, assisting with the annual luncheon, and participating in the coalition’s community outreach group. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.