Practicing Gratitude and Positivity

Practicing Gratitude and Positivity

During the cold winter months and during difficult times, like the pandemic, practicing gratitude might be the furthest thing from your mind. Yet cultivating gratitude and focusing on the positive aspects of your life is one of the best tools to improve emotional wellness and cope with trauma. Despite the science that backs this up, practicing gratitude can feel like a real challenge when times are tough. Here’s why it’s so important and five practical ways to make it happen.

How Practicing Gratitude Helps Emotional Wellness

Studies show that people who consistently express gratitude have a tendency to be happier and are less likely to be depressed. Even in a Berkley study where participants were already seeking therapy for mental health concerns, those who practiced gratitude by writing letters reported significantly better mental health for weeks after the study ended.

So why does it work? Practicing gratitude can zero in on a couple of good habits: first, it forces you to think about the good events or good things in your life. This, in turn, pushes you to reframe your thoughts with positivity. In the Berkley study, people who used fewer negative emotion words in their letters also reported better mental health, suggesting that mental health improves when you focus less on negative emotions and more on the positive.

Five Ways to Include Gratitude in Your Wellness Routine

1.    Add gratitude to your routine

Creating new habits can be difficult, so try tying your gratitude to another habit you already have. This is called habit stacking - a strategy where you tack a new habit onto an old one. For example, if you write out a to-do list or journal each day, take an extra minute to include practicing gratitude during the same time. Whether that’s on a separate sheet of paper or just to the side of your existing paper, list three things - big or small - that you’re grateful for.

2.    Use mantras for gratitude and positivity

A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself that can aid in concentration. The repetitive sound of the mantra can affect your mind and body, whether you actually believe the words you’re saying or not. When you tell yourself something over and over, your brain begins to look for evidence of it. Try a mantra like “I have everything I need, and I appreciate the abundance in my life,” or, “Every experience I have is perfect for my growth.”

3.    Write thank-you notes

Think about the people who have helped you in some way, big or small. Write a quick thank-you note. This can benefit you as well as the person you give it to.

4.    Show your gratitude with action

You can also show your gratitude rather than saying it by helping someone. That might be holding the elevator door for a stranger or helping a coworker meet a deadline.

5.    Tell someone you appreciate them

Going deeper than actions, telling someone in your life that you appreciate them and their impact on your life can be huge. Not only will they feel warm and fuzzy, but this expression will also strengthen your bond.

As you embark on your wellness and positivity journey, remember to take things one day at a time. Some days practicing gratitude or repeating your mantras will feel harder than others, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you keep working on making it a consistent action in your life - only then will you reframe your thoughts and gain long-term results.

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