The Connection Between Gratitude and Mental Health

Thanksgiving is coming up which means it’s the time when people begin reflecting on the year and considering all the things they’re grateful for. While the Thanksgiving holiday is a great annual reminder to express thanks, it’s important to incorporate gratitude into your life all year long.

Gratitude is much more than just a “thank you” here and there; gratitude can evolve into a way of life. You can express gratitude for anything you experience. The benefits expand far beyond showing the people in your life that you’re thankful for them. Incorporating gratitude can affect your mental health in many positive ways, too.

This isn’t merely an anecdotal observation, either. Research shows how much gratitude can affect your mental health. Extensive scientific evidence shows that gratitude can lead to increased happiness and reduced depression, anxiety, and more. The potential benefits of gratitude are vast and seemingly endless.

What are some of the ways that gratitude can affect your mental health? What is the scientific explanation for gratitude’s incredible impact on your brain? And how can you shift your mindset to live in a place of gratitude to bring its benefits into your life?

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation for the people, places, and things in your life. The word comes from gratia, the Latin word for graciousness, grace, or gratefulness. Oftentimes gratitude incorporates all these definitions in one way or another.

It’s easy to feel gratitude for the big things in life. Job promotions, raises, newborn children, and experiencing healing from illness are all notable things to be grateful for. Gratitude comes easily when you go through significant experiences.

At the same time, there is nothing too small to express gratitude for either. Sometimes you can lose sight of the simple things with the sheer vastness of available experiences. But remembering to be grateful for things you often take for granted is part of what makes gratitude such a powerful practice to incorporate into your life.

Gratitude and the People Around You

Think about someone you know who walks around with a negative attitude all the time. They seem to have a knack for finding the downside in every situation and don’t hesitate to express it. They’re constantly complaining about things in their life from their job to their coworkers to their living situation and more.

How does it feel to be around that person? Do you have a good time when you’re with them or is it emotionally and mentally draining to spend time with them? It’s probably more exhausting than it is invigorating. Their negative mindset affects the way they look at everything in their life and it impacts the people they come into contact with.

On the other hand, think about a person in your life who seems to be grateful for their existence. Sure, they get down from time to time, but their positivity seems to stem from the way they’re thankful for the things in their life. That gratitude has a great effect on their mental health and it probably spreads to the people they spend time with, too.

Gratitude and the Brain

Positive psychology has long benefitted from the connection between gratitude and increased happiness. People who tout the power of positivity believe that gratitude makes a massive difference in your overall outlook on life. They insist that it encourages positive emotions, brings attention to good experiences, increases your capability to handle adversity, and more.

At the same time, the positive psychology belief still lacked standardized and well-researched proof. It relied on anecdotal experience, however convincing those experiences may have been. But now a growing collection of research exists surrounding the connection between gratitude and the brain. And it looks like the positive psychologists were right.

The ways gratitude can affect your mental health are now based on more than individual experiences. Gratitude now comes with scientifically-proven benefits that are impossible to deny. These benefits apply not only to people who are already well-functioning and happy overall. Studies show that expressing gratitude is beneficial for those struggling with their mental health too.

Individuals who actively practice cultivating gratitude alongside their treatment programs tend to report better mental health overall. They note a deeper sense of wellbeing and fewer feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. As researchers continue conducting studies on the effects of gratitude, greater numbers of clinicians will recognize and make use of ways that gratitude can affect mental health.

Benefits of Expressing Gratitude

There is a wide range of positive effects of gratitude that impact you physically, psychologically, and socially.

Physical

  • Better sleep quality
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Stronger immune system
  • Increased interest in caring for your physical health

Psychological

  • Lower stress levels
  • Increase in positive emotions
  • Feeling more alert, awake, and engaged
  • Greater sense of pleasure and joy
  • Boosted feelings of optimism and happiness

Social

  • Greater sense of compassion, generosity, and helpfulness
  • Increased feelings of forgiveness
  • Reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • More desire to spend time with friends and family

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

With all the positive evidence pointing toward the benefits of gratitude, the need for it is clear. You can harness the power of gratitude by incorporating practices that remind you to be grateful in your daily life. What are some ways to cultivate gratitude?

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Research shows that individuals who keep a regular gratitude journal experience the most positive effects on their mental health. You can go back through your journal and watch how your sense of gratitude expands over time.
  • Don’t neglect the small things. Don’t forget to recognize the importance of things that seem small and avoid taking them for granted. When you express gratitude for these little things it helps you remember how much you truly have in life.
  • Share your gratitude. Talk about your newfound feelings of gratitude with family and friends. Encourage them to consider things in their lives that they’re grateful for and invite them to join you in your journey to cultivate gratitude.
  • Give back to those around you. Giving back is one of the most important things you can do as you learn to cultivate gratitude. It reminds you to recognize the positive aspects of your life and share your gratitude through your actions.

Seeking Additional Mental Health Support

Gratitude is crucial, from the seemingly mundane to the incredible things that life offers. At the same time, it’s only one part of the greater whole. While cultivating gratitude is an important way to boost your mental health, it’s more effective when combined with a dedicated mental health treatment program.

Clearview Treatment Programs is a network of treatment facilities that specialize in helping individuals struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. We provide individualized programs through a complete continuum of care that helps you build a foundation for lasting, fulfilling recovery.

If you’re looking to find treatment for your mental health, Clearview can help. We understand the importance of incorporating gratitude into a dedicated mental health treatment program to provide the best possible results. Reach out to us to learn more about the programs we offer and find which is the best fit for your needs today!