Expressing and Showing Gratitude
Gratitude is recognizing the good in our lives and being thankful for those positive experiences. It turns out that the ability to acknowledge the good in our lives and to express gratitude for the people, places and things that bring us joy can protect us from the negative symptoms of depression. For some people this comes more naturally than for others. Some of us may be so focused on preventing hurt, sadness and pain that we hyper-vigilantly look for the potential problems before they even exist. This focus on what is going wrong or may go wrong blinds us to what is going well or has the potential to go well. Psychologists often call this a “negative filter” and label it an unhealthy thinking style.
Do not worry if you relate to the negative filter thinking style, there is hope! That hope is called gratitude. Focusing on recognizing and expressing gratitude simply turns our mind from what is troubling us to what brings us joy. Below are a few suggestions on how to recognize and show gratitude more often in our lives.
- Begin a gratitude journal where each morning or evening you list one to three things for which you are thankful.
- Choose an accountability partner and exchange gratitude statements with each other each day. Many couples like to begin their day sharing with each other what creates thankfulness and gratitude that day.
- Each time you catch yourself judging or worrying, acknowledge what you are feeling as real and balance that thought with a gratitude thought. For example, “This teacher is not very good and annoys me when she contradicts herself AND I am thankful that so many people in this world choose to be teachers so we can learn.”
- Write a heartfelt thank you card to someone for whom you are grateful.
- Find time to intentionally listen as a form of gratitude. Sit down with someone you are thankful for and listen without interrupting, don’t give advice unless asked and don’t compare your experiences with what they share.
- Smile and give compliments.
- Reach out to someone you have not heard from in a while or to someone you know could use some help…..even if it is just hearing a kind word from a friendly voice.
Although expressing gratitude can have a positive effect on people and the world in general, the real winner is you! Recognizing and expressing gratitude positively feeds our mental health.