8 Ways to Harness the Power of Gratitude – hopetocope.com | Hope To Cope With Anxiety & Depression

Healthy habits and recommendations for positive lifestyle changes can sometimes be overwhelming. One that is worth adopting is an attitude of gratitude. Here’s how to get started.


Gratitude, “Grit,” & Goals

Over the past decade, researchers have found that practicing gratitude has a positive influence on one’s mood, outlook, relationships, and overall happiness—all of which can buffer against the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Gratefulness also appears to help cultivate our resilience, or “grit.” Together, gratitude and grit discourage rumination over challenges and enable us to focus on our life goals with greater tenacity. To harness the power of gratitude and improve our mental well-being, we can enlist several different strategies:

#1 Make It a Habit

Deciding to increase or enhance our gratitude means establishing a new habit. To start, consider practicing the “three good things” daily exercise and keep a running list of those moments and memories that bring you a bit of joy throughout your day.

Many people find putting pen to paper with a gratitude journal provides the needed ritual experience that encourages an intentional focus on the day’s events. This can also be done electronically or on the go, as there are also numerous smartphone apps that function as gratitude journals, offer prompts, and create reminders. When tracking our “three good things,” we can write more detail about the events that made us feel appreciative, which can be particularly difficult when coping with depression and anxiety.

#2 Pay Attention

Even the simple experience of gratitude may give us a dopamine boost that helps our bodies to address depression and anxiety symptoms. Deciding to make note of the moments, people, and things in life that we’re grateful for inspires us to pay attention and increase our awareness of what we will add to our journal or list, either in the moment or in later reflection at the end of the day.

#3 Focus on the Positive

Along with that increased awareness comes a heightened level of appreciation. Focusing on what we have makes it easier not to worry about what we are lacking (or what we believe ourselves to be missing out on).

This helps us to recognize the positive aspects of our lives, which provides an overall calming effect. A mind that feels calmer is better able to anticipate and manage mental-health triggers and stress as they arise.

#4 Dinner Thanks

One of the most popular and powerful tools for cultivating thankfulness is to say it aloud. When we speak about gratitude instead of just thinking about it, that engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which, in effect, increases serotonin and produces feelings of peace and calm. Many people make a habit of talking about the positive things from their day around the family dinner table, which can make it easier to cultivate a habit of gratitude.

#5 Give Thanks to Others

Just as helpful as discussing our moments of gratefulness around the dinner table allows us to give voice to our good feelings, bringing up our appreciation in the moment is also important.

There are a number of ways to practice appreciating others: consider writing regular thank-you notes once or twice a week—whether cards, letters, texts, or emails. The act of telling another you are grateful for them creates a connection and spreads a feeling of validation that will hopefully be paid forward.

#6 Say It in a Picture

For some of us, unless it’s always in front of our face, we may simply forget, despite our best intentions. If you are a visual/creative type, you could use visual reminders: Post pictures of loved ones or meaningful experiences in places where you can see them regularly. You could even create a gratitude wall in your home to act as a constant reminder to savor the wonderful people and moments in your life.

#7 Your Own Gratitude Style

The best route to success is choosing a gratitude practice that fits your preferences and style. Experiment with several different habits and techniques until you find the one(s) you find most enjoyable and that you’ll be able to stick with. Consistency is important when we are working to improve our overall mindset, and what works for one person may not for another. This is wehre personalizing and customizing your lifestyle and habits makes sense.

#8 Routine Practice

Counting our blessings when in a state of depression or anxiety is challenging and takes a conscious effort. However, if this is a habit and part of our everyday routine, like brushing our teeth, we will be more successful. To do this, some people associate two daily routines like thinking about what you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth.

As with all new habits and positive changes, it’s better to aim for progress rather than perfection. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a worthy goal, and any self-shaming thoughts about adopting this change would be counterproductive. Start small by building gratitude into your everyday life.

Read more: “Gratitude: ’Tis a Gift to be Thankful”

Originally posted May 28, 2017

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