Mental Health Awareness: Gratitude and Mental and Physical Health

Gratitude and Mental and Physical Health

Our congregation has been talking about gratitude and how important it is to identify those things that for which we are grateful. There is much proven research that has identified how acknowledging gratitude helps our mental and physical health. Showing appreciation and gratitude for the things and people in our lives can help us adapt to change, cope with difficulties, increase our academic success, regulate our emotions and improve our mental and physical well-being. Here are some benefits and tips to help you practice gratitude and lead a grateful life.

The Benefits of Gratitude:
  • Gratitude Will Give Us More Positive Relationships: When we reach out to our friends, colleagues and even strangers to show our gratitude to them it strengthens our mental health and likely theirs as well. It enhances empathy, reduces aggression and give us a more pro-social manner. Acknowledging gratefulness improves our self-esteem, increases appreciation of others and reduces social comparisons.
  • Gratitude Improves Our Physical Health: The more gratitude we feel the more likely we are to take care of our health both physically and emotionally. It can reduce our toxic emotions such as envy and resentment and increase happiness.
  • Gratitude Improves Our Mental Health: Practicing gratitude can be an effective way to manage and reduce stress and resentment, improve our mood, foster optimism and reduce depression. It can also help us build resilience and better handle difficult situations as they arise.

Things We Can Do To Enhance Our Gratitude:
  • Start a Gratitude Jar: Write and keep brief notes of those things we are grateful for or keep notes on your phone and read them at the end of each week.
  • Journal: Writing down in a journal what you are grateful for and those things you have shown others for whom you are grateful. Also write down what gratefulness others have shown to you. Research has shown we can sleep better if 15 minutes before bedtime we think about those things we are grateful for and write them down.
  • Mindful Walks: Look around when walking to notice all the things we are grateful for including nature, the weather, neighbors, dogs and children we see that are enjoying life.
  • Meditation: This is proven to center and relax our mind. It can be powerful in helping us pause and be mindful. A great resource link to look up is Loving-Kindness Meditation.
  • Written Messages of Gratitude: Write letters, notes or texts to others to show your gratitude to them.

Feeling grateful has many daily benefits for all of us. Do not overwhelm yourself however to avoid
feeling “not grateful enough”. Start small, practice, avoid comparing yourself with others all of the time, don’t get bogged down and realize you are not going to feel grateful all day every day. But as research has shown us, the above ideas will enhance your mental and physical health. Giving to others also fills our cup. When you awake in the morning, ask yourself “Whose cup can I help fill today?”

And as Psalm 118:24 says (and we share on Sundays), “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it”!

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