Three Ways to Redirect the Mind to an Attitude of Gratitude
Let’s face it, when you’re in the thick of a high-stress moment, you might not be thinking thankful thoughts. But what would happen if you could find something to be grateful for, even in that moment of anxiety? What if you could refocus your attention to one of appreciation?
Psychological science shows convincing evidence that an attitude of gratitude is beneficial to our mental health. Appreciation, along with kindness and compassion, is an essential component of healthy social connections, one tenet of well-being. Being grateful is also a pillar of positive psychology, which links positive mental states to better health.
Join our bi-weekly workshop, “Wellness Through Gratitude,” for practical guidance on starting and maintaining a daily gratitude practice. Every other Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.
Find What You’re Grateful For
Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to walk around like Pollyanna, the story-book character who remained optimistic no matter what. It’s more of a reorientation that accepts the present moment’s difficulties AND finds something to appreciate in it. Gratitude refocuses our attention on the present moment, with all its glorious nuances.
“The idea is not to make yourself feel grateful for something that is difficult, but rather to find things within a similar category that you can be grateful for,” says Nate Reit, a support counselor with COVID Support VT who facilitates the weekly “Wellness through Gratitude” workshop.
But how do we accomplish that reframe in the midst of anxiety? In a word, practice. Practice gratitude every day when you’re not stressed and the practice will come more naturally when you are. Eventually you might catch yourself looking for that thing to be thankful for when you’re in the middle of chaos or challenge.
“You can start by practicing gratitude for particular areas of your life – work, family, etc, — where it’s easy to be grateful. Then you can gain some momentum,” advises Reit.
Three 3-Minute Gratitude Practices
Here are three quick practices Reit prescribes to help you get in the gratitude groove. These are adapted from the COVID Support VT weekly workshop “Wellness through Gratitude.” Register for the workshop here.
Exercise 1: Take three minutes to write down all the PEOPLE you are grateful for. Remove any boundaries around whether they are near you, known personally to you, or currently around. As you think of people with appreciation, notice if others come to you.
Exercise 2: Think about three THINGS you are grateful for right now and why. Things don’t need to be material objects; they might be situations, or objects in nature, or animals. Say out loud: “I am grateful for XX because XX. List as many reasons as you like for each one. Then say thank you and move to the next. If you’re stuck, think more basic. Are you breathing? Is your heart beating? Did the sun come up today? Try to engender authentic thankfulness for these fundamental rhythms of life that we so often take for granted. Notice how that makes you feel.
Exercise 3: Take a few minutes to make a list of all the PLACES you are grateful for. Reflect on places in your present life and those from your past. What were the feelings associated with the place? Why was it memorable?
Use these practices to jump-start your own regular practice in thankfulness. Try to make it a daily habit. It need not take a lot of time, and you can even practice gratitude while you’re doing the dishes or taking a shower. The point is to make it routine, so when you need it, the practice is there.
“Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning or right before bed can be easy times to start a new habit,” Reit says. “Plus, it can be a really nice way to wake up and go to sleep.”
Learn More and Find Resources
Join our bi-weekly workshop every other Tuesday at 3 p.m. Register here for “Covid Recovery: Wellness through Gratitude.”
Read Nate Reit’s Guest Blog on gratitude: Gratitude: Demystifying a Powerful Wellness Practice.
Find more tips in Being Grateful Can Improve Your Mental Health, published by Mental Health First Aid.
Need to Talk?
Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.
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 center for 24/7 support.
Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.
Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.
COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of 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.