Editor’s Note: Nate Reit is a Support Counselor at COVID Support VT, where he answers the “warmline” (2-1-1, option #2) and assists people in finding help and resources. Reit is facilitating a new free, online workshop, “Covid Recovery: Wellness Through Gratitude,” which starts April 26.
Research has consistently supported the benefits of practicing gratitude in enhancing well-being.
For example, a University of California, San Diego study found that people who expressed higher levels of gratitude experienced better mood, higher-quality sleep, more self-efficacy, and less evidence of inflammation. In addition, individuals who kept gratitude journals for eight weeks had reduced levels of a biological sign of inflammation and improved heart rate variability. A significant body of research now supports and expands the scientific evidence that gratitude is good for your health.
Now, we all know a little about gratitude. Most of us were taught to say “thank you” when we receive gifts or are shown kindness. This expression of gratitude, for many people, is practiced reactively. We express gratitude when we are presented with an immediate reason to be grateful.
Proactive Gratitude: How this Practice Can Improve Your Wellness
In addition to this (positive) reactive practice of gratitude, we can develop a regular, proactive practice. This is a way to practice gratitude regularly, at any time, in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Many of us have heard the old adage “count your blessings;” proactive gratitude is essentially that. It entails simply taking a moment to intentionally put our focus on some things we CAN be grateful for, even if we are simultaneously experiencing something we do not feel grateful for.
This proactive, intentional shift in our attention to gratitude can have profound health benefits, mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Gratitude Workshop April 26 Explores Gratitude Practices and Methods
So how do we do this?
I encourage you to attend our upcoming workshop, COVID Recovery: Wellness Through Gratitude (April 26), where we will explore specific gratitude practices and methods in depth.
Gratitude Journal: Practical Advice for Making Proactive Gratitude a Daily Practice
In the meantime, one simple way to incorporate the benefits of gratitude into your life is to start a gratitude journal. First thing in the morning and/or before you go to bed, write down three to five things for which you are grateful. These can be anything or anyone from any time in your life: big things, little things, general things, or specific things. You can include people, places, events, resources, qualities, feelings, whatever it is that makes you feel thankful. Anything goes!
Here’s an important trick to amplify the feeling and effects of this practice. Include a short note about WHY you are grateful for each thing you write down. Then read each one and verbally (or mentally) say the words “thank you” for each one.
Refocus Your Mind to an Attitude of Gratitude for Emotional Well-Being
This simple, powerful practice will help you train yourself to refocus your mind on positive outcomes and occurrences in your day-to-day life. Regularly acknowledging positive things from the past can also help shift your perspective. This is not as a replacement for addressing challenges, but as a means of improving the mental and emotional state from which you navigate your life, challenges and all. And the health benefits can be wonderful!
Give it a try and find out for yourself how an attitude of gratitude can benefit your emotional well-being.
And don’t forget to join our workshop on April 26! Sign up here.
Need to talk?
Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available Monday – Friday.
If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support
One-click translation to 100 languages of everything on the COVIDSupportVT.org website, plus Multilingual Resources & downloadable materials in 10 languages common to Vermont’s New American immigrant and refugee communities.
COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports.