An Attitude of Gratitude Can Improve Well-Being & Resilience
Most of us grew up learning the value of “thank you.” A gift, an act of kindness, or a compliment warrants – requires, even – the universal utterance of gratitude in response. But did you know that gratitude, done proactively in addition to reactively, can improve our mental wellness and resilience? Having a daily practice in which we mindfully attend to what we’re thankful for may help us maintain an attitude of gratitude even in challenging circumstances.
Join our bi-weekly workshop, “Wellness Through Gratitude,” for practical guidance on starting and maintaining a daily gratitude practice.
Reactive vs. Proactive Gratitude
“Saying thank you is a reactive, responsive way to show gratitude,” says Nate Reit, workshop facilitator and support counselor at COVID Support VT. “But practicing gratitude doesn’t have to wait until something nice happens to us. We can proactively practice it just by thinking about and consciously attending to what we are thankful for.”
Doing so helps bring up related thoughts that can make us feel better and help us relax, Reit says. The health benefits of a gratitude practice include improved mood, more energy, increased positive emotions, better sleep quality, and greater self-efficacy, the sense that what we do matters. It can also make us more open to other opportunities to give thanks. On a physical level, studies have linked gratitude practice to reduced inflammation and better health outcomes in people with heart disease.
Five Ways to Practice Proactive Gratitude
COVID Support VT’s bi-weekly gratitude workshop, “Wellness Through Gratitude,” happens every other Tuesday at 3 p.m. Register for this workshop here. Participants learn a series of simple exercises and brief meditations that they can easily incorporate into a personalized practice.
In a recent session, Reit outlined five ways to practice proactive gratitude.
- Write it. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down what you’re thankful for whenever it happens or at a set point in the day, such as bedtime.
- Rock it. Carry a gratitude rock or other object that reminds you to give thanks.
- Ping yourself. Set periodic reminders on your device, especially during times you know will be highly stressful, to pause and reflect on what you’re thankful for.
- Post it up. Write reminder notes or prompts to reflect on specific areas of your life.
- Tag it along. Incorporate proactive gratitude into daily routines like brushing your teeth or showering. Or, use the practice to defuse otherwise stressful circumstances, such as waiting in a line or on hold.
Three Minutes of Thankfulness
Here’s a simple way to reset your mind into an attitude of gratitude even in the midst of challenges. Take three minutes and simply think about the people in your life for whom you are thankful. If you can write them down, do it. You can say to yourself: “I am grateful for [NAME] because [WHY].” And then thank that person silently. Do this for each person who comes to mind. As you name people, you may find that others come to mind as well.
You can extend this exercise to other categories as well. For example, think of all the places that you are thankful for. They may be places you’ve been in the past, places you dream of going, or places that bring you comfort. Give each space your thanks.
Of course, you don’t have to limit your practice to categories per se. Just write down three to five people, places, events, or circumstances you’re grateful for. If you like, tell why you’re grateful for each. Then offer gratitude for each.
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.
Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health
Need to Talk?
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Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org.
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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.