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Does practising gratitude help with mental health?

by Kim – 22nd Apr 2024

Sometimes it’s the last thing you want to hear. It can feel invalidating to perhaps open up about your mental health or something you’re struggling with, and have it met with advice that you should be grateful, or be more positive. It can feel like you’re being blamed, it’s your own bad for not being grateful for your loved ones, or the things in your life. It can feel like you’re not being heard, your struggles are real and they can’t be easily fixed with some positive thinking.

I think in reality, it’s a balance of allowing yourself to sit with negative feelings and learn not to push them away – whilst countering them with positive thinking. You deserve to be heard, supported, and given aid to seek help for your struggle.

gratitude wheel from NAMi website

Image ref: nami

Hopefully, the more time passes, you will feel equipped to manage your mental health through independent activities – self-care, mindfulness, journaling, hobbies, exercise, but always remember there is nothing wrong with also getting support from friends, family, a counsellor or teacher, and more. However, a positive attitude may be the thing that really helps in the long run, as hard as it may initially be. Negative thoughts seem to be louder in our mind, and stick around for longer, but we can counter these with happier ones. For example – practising gratitude.

What are the benefits of practising gratitude?

  • Focusing on what you’re grateful for can reduce stress and anxiety, and boost your happiness overall.
  • It can also improve your mental health by increasing your sense of meaning and purpose in life.
  • It can better your relationships – it will be really meaningful for your loved ones to hear your gratitude for them.
  • Increased resilience – by repeatedly practising gratitude it will become a habit, making it seamless to focus on the positive rather than dwelling on negative experiences.

Image ref: Insight timer

How can we practise gratitude?

  • Writing down things we are grateful for. Whether through journaling, a jar of happy memories or little notes to ourselves, writing down what makes us happy and supported helps us meditate on these more positive feelings and recognise our love for the people around us.
  • Speaking them out loud. This can be done in a variety of ways – through prayer, conversations with friends, telling others what we are grateful for, and acknowledging their efforts or accomplishments.
  • Being grateful for little moments as well as big ones – life is made of the little things we do, and the big accomplishments come in years. Enjoy a friend’s company, your favourite food, nice weather, petting a neighbourhood cat or watching a movie you love.
  • Practising mantras. One of my favourites is “inhale love, exhale gratitude”, I think it’s so sweet!
  • Appreciating the gifts and compliments we receive, and giving back where we can!
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There’s no point forcing gratitude if you’re not feeling it – sometimes not everyone can get along in life or we have to do stuff that doesn’t make us the happiest. Practise self-compassion on the days you struggle to find something to feel happy about.

This blog gives advice for mild/moderate mental health issues. If you feel you are in a very dark place, or experiencing thoughts of wanting to harm yourself, please seek help from a doctor as soon as possible, or go to the MindMate URGENT HELP page

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