Practicing Gratitude Can Make a Difference

The holidays are now in the rearview mirror. Many of us can think of things we’re grateful for (time spent with family and friends, time not spent with family and friends, quiet times, times that we laughed as we shared memories, etc.). While it is nice to count our blessings during the holidays, practicing gratitude for the big and small things in life can benefit us year-round. January is a good time to start a practice of gratitude. This simply means being thankful for the good things in your life. It’s not that we are expected to be happy all the time. That’s not the case. We are not expected to ignore reality. We can acknowledge the fact that sometimes life can be difficult; and that things we don’t want to happen, happen. However, appreciating the good things in life, no matter how small, can sometimes help ease stress and boost our moods. 

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to improve our mental health. The NLM indicates that “it is helpful to practice gratitude every day, either by thinking about what you are grateful for or writing it down in a journal. These can be big things, such as the support you have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal. It’s important to allow yourself a moment to enjoy [the idea] that you had a positive experience. Practicing gratitude can help you to see your life differently. For example, when you are stressed, you may not notice that there are also moments when you have some positive emotions. Gratitude can help you to recognize them.”

According to Mental Health First Aid, “Research has shown that consciously practicing gratitude can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In fact, studies have found that a single act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. These effects disappeared within three to six months, which reminds us to practice gratitude over and over.” 

Being intentional in practicing gratitude does not have to take much time. This article suggests that we consider committing 15 minutes each day to focus on the positive through exercises such as: 

The author says these practices “should bring a smile to your face today — and may strengthen your brain’s ability to see the sunny side for months to come.”