Day #13: Practicing Gratitude

by: Brayden Ransom

Photo by from Pexels

Gratitude is a self-care practice that we can do anywhere, anytime. Like many self-care tools we’re featuring this #31DaysOfWellness, Practicing Gratitude can be done in a multitude of ways, so finding what works for you may require some experimentation.

When we discuss gratitude we want to make sure not to be too hard on ourselves for not feeling blessed every moment of every day. When we are made to feel like we must find the bright side of all life’s hurdles, it can be just as damaging as the hurdles themselves. But, if we can work gratitude practices into our self-care routine, we are likely to unlock a newfound strength within ourselves that allows us more comfort when we do experience those hardships.

We may associate Practicing Gratitude with something we do for others as a reaction to what they’ve done for us. Some examples include, writing thank you notes, or expressing how thankful we are when given opportunities or help in a desperate moment. These acts of gratitude are real and likely result in both parties feeling appreciated. But there’s another side to Practicing Gratitude as well.

When we wake up feeling grateful for another day, when we feel the warm sun on our skin after days of clouds and rain, when we spend time with family after a long time apart. These feelings of gratitude may not often be expressed through cards or deliberate statements, but by a feeling that overcomes us and makes us feel good.

Studies have found that expressing gratitude towards a person or a situation has mental and physical health benefits and can strengthen social bonds. Positive psychology research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. When we Practice Gratitude we are encouraged to feel more positive emotions, relish in our good experiences, deal with adversity, and strengthen our relationships.

Practicing Gratitude can be done in many ways, and from multiple perspectives.

  • Past: Thinking back on positive memories/mementos, and being thankful for elements of your past experiences.
  • Present: We can practice gratitude in the present moment by not taking good fortune for granted when it does occur. We do this by really acknowledging how thankful we are, whether out loud, written down or thought in our mind. 
  • Future: Practicing gratitude for the future means maintaining a certain level or optimism about your abilities to flourish and find happiness. 

If you don’t currently include Practicing Gratitude in your self-care toolbox, consider using the “Past, Present, Future” method to get your thoughts flowing around the different things you have to be grateful for. Can you think of at least one thing for each category? Can you think of many things? If you are feeling particularly low, try writing them down. Creating a list and looking back at it acts as a reminder to us even on bad days, that we were able to think of things to be grateful for. This can be incredibly valuable on challenging days when it feels like nothing and no one is on your side. We can Practice Gratitude both out loud and within the space of our minds; doing either thing individually has lasting benefits, and when combined together they create a powerful self-care practice.

Mental Health America (MHA) offers these ideas as ways to increase your gratefulness:

  • Write a gratitude letter. Researcher Martin Seligman, PhD, asked subjects to write a letter thanking someone who had been particularly kind to them and then deliver it in person. The letter-writers enjoyed impressive positive effects even a month later.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down anything large or small that makes you smile, including terrific achievements, touching moments and great relationships.
  • Remind yourself to savor. Yes, stop and smell the roses-and look at them and touch them. Do whatever you can to really soak in the lovelier aspects of your life.
  • Share your good news. Studies of people’s reactions to positive developments suggest that those who tell a friend about a happy event enjoy it even more.

Remember, when Practicing Gratitude it’s important not to beat yourself or succumb to the ideas of toxic positivity. You may be experiencing loss, grief, or having a hard time seeing “the brighter side” in general. Those are moments when you may feel the most alone you’ve ever felt. Incorporating gratitude into your daily practices of self-care will not turn experiencing grief or difficulty into rainbows and butterflies, but it may help you to remember that those beautiful things you love do exist in some capacity; and that thought can act as a light that shines through the darkness.

MHA also offers information on Practicing Gratitude Through grievance:

Remember the good times. When you’ve lost something you love, it is almost automatic to focus on the pain that you are feeling about your loss. By remembering the good times you had in a certain place, with a pet, or with a person, you’re practicing gratitude for having had those experiences. It can be even more helpful to have someone else who is sharing your loss join you in reminiscing. Maybe you’ll even be able to share a laugh together. 

How We Practice Gratitude
Contributed by Sean K Smedley,

My favorite daily practice is my daily Gratitude List, Gratitude is my Attitude. Each morning I start my day by sharing a Gratitude List with about 10 of my friends. Mine typically consists of reflections from the day before and gratitude that I have awaken with on that day. I started my Daily Gratitude practice about 8 months ago. It’s a practice I have committed to everyday; weekends, vacations “all the days”. It has been a super helpful part of my recovery and daily living.

I would highly recommend everyone to start a daily Gratitude Practice. I do mine first thing in the a.m., but it can be done anytime during the day. My Gratitude list is normally about 6 or 7 Gratitude’s long.

Sharing A Secret About Gratitude…

It can just be for one thing. Like a new day, a sun shiny morning, a text, a call, family, Faith, fun. Gratitude starts with one thing and propels from there.

I’m grateful that you took the time to read my favorite daily practice.
Gratitude is such an important part of our journey to wellbeing…Let it ripple.”

At Mental Health Connecticut we are feeling extra grateful this #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth for the amazing donors and supporters of our #31DaysOfWellness Campaign to benefit CT with #31Tools2thrive and double the impact for our residential programs across the state! Our mission to support the community is only made possibly through community support itself.

This #ThankathonThursday, we want to say Thank You!

Thank you to Copper Beech Institute for partnering with us on #MindfulnessMondays for virtual mindfulness sessions. We are grateful for your support and for your dedication to wellness. Register for one of the upcoming sessions using the following links:

May 17, 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m. Inviting Peace, Meditation and Mental Health

May 24. 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m. Self-Compassion and Our Inner Critic

Thank you to Jiffy Journal for your continued support. Jiffy Journal is donating 15% of their total sales during the month of May to benefit the MHC@Home Fund.

Thank you to Imagine Float for your support this Mental Health Awareness Month and for your commitment to wellness. Imagine Float is not only a Bronze sponsor and fundraiser, they are also donating 20% of their total sales on Sunday, May 16th to help us with our goal of doubling the impact for CT residents.

Thank you to all of our dedicated Toolkit Sponsors, including Lockton and People’s United Bank, who have supported #31DaysofWellness.

Thank you to our incredibly generous and kind employees of MHC and our supporters within the community who are fundraising to benefit the MHC@Home Fund this Mental Health Awareness Month.

Lastly, we want to give a special thank you to our friends and long-time partners at ConnectiCare who we are honored to have as our “Double the Impact” Toolkit Sponsor for #31DaysofWellness. With this exclusive sponsorship, ConnectiCare has pledged to match our total campaign goal of $31,000, doubling the impact for our residential programs across the state. We need to reach our goal by May 31 to receive the matching funds, which means we need your help!

The support we receive through the month of May will benefit the MHC@Home Fund. A donation to the MHC@Home Fund is an investment in the safe and welcoming environments for those we serve and it’s an investment in our future.

Join us by setting up a fundraising page or making a donation today! 

Be sure to stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #ThankAThonThursday in May!