By Dr. April Brown, LMHC, NCC, Ed.D., director of counseling services at Hodges University
As we start to feel overwhelmed by the various tasks we must complete, it is important to find ways to stay motivated and positive throughout the semester. Did you know that gratitude is a powerful tool that can be used to decrease depression and anxiety? Here are five ways to practice gratitude:
- Have a gratitude journal. On a consistent basis, make sure to record the things that you are grateful for, as it will help you remember the joys in your life. Amber Pope, program chair of the clinical mental health counseling program in the Nichols School of Professional Studies at Hodges University, states, “People who practice being grateful regularly tend to be happier, experience less negative emotions and feel more connected to others. A gratitude journal is a more formal way to put this practice into place.”Pope goes on to explain her technique by suggesting, “I usually suggest that individuals get a little book that they carry around with them and write in as they notice things throughout their day that they are grateful for, or to take time before going to bed to write down several things they were grateful for that day. Having a more formal gratitude practice, such as a journal, helps people to be intentional about giving thanks and being more mindful of the experiences and connections they are thankful for on a daily basis.”
- Obliterate any negative self-talk because it damages your core and your life. Instead, be thankful for you, especially your inner power. Appreciate yourself and be kind to yourself. This type of action will help increase your self-worth and your ability to feel joy.
- Decide to remember those people in your life who have shown you kindness. The process of remembering to be thankful for the positive mentors in your life cultivates gratitude. If some of those mentors include Hodges University faculty and staff, be grateful for their time and dedication in helping you succeed.
- Giving back brings joy to others. When joy is in the atmosphere, it brings hope and decreases despair. This is why giving back is also known as “Paying it Forward.” It illuminates the concept that we are all on this journey together.
- Express your thankfulness of being alive. Be mindful of your present moment and your present surroundings. Be thankful for things such as water, plants and freedom. Millions of people do not have access to the items we often take for granted.
According to Robert Emmons, who is considered the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and is a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, gratitude is good for two reasons, “First, gratitude strengthens social ties. It cultivates an individual’s sense of interconnectedness. A second reason supporting the power of gratitude is that gratitude increases one’s sense of personal worth. When we experience gratitude, we understand that another person wishes us well, and in turn, we feel loved and cared for.”*
Amy Morin, contributing writer with Forbes.com explains various benefits of practicing gratitude in her article, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round,” saying, “Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.”
Through research, she reveals seven benefits, which include:
- Opening the door to more relationships
- Improving physical health
- Improving psychological health
- Enhancing empathy and reducing aggression
- Sleeping better
- Improving self-esteem
- Increasing mental strength**
Therefore, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. The more you are willing to give of yourself, the more you will receive from others. In practicing the art of gratitude, you can improve your mental health.
*Emmons, Robert. “Pay it Forward.” 2007. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/pay_it_forward/
**Morin, Amy, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round,” November 23, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#1d16fc196800