Have you ever woken up and experienced something negative before you even got out of bed? Maybe someone in your house decided to blend a smoothie with ice early in the morning; maybe your alarm didn’t go off in time and now you’re late for work; maybe the neighbor’s dog was barking incessantly and they chose not to do anything about it.
Chances are, you thought something negative, pessimistic or hostile — there’s also a chance that negative thought set off the rest of your day, even if you weren’t directly trying to cause yourself to have a bad day. Sometimes that negativity causes a ripple effect and carries over to the next day, and before we know it, we’ve been in a funk for a week.
The mind is a powerful thing. It dictates how we see ourselves, our lives, the people around us, the entire world actually — and it’s the state of your mental health that deems whether you are a generally happy or unhappy person.
Gratitude and your mental health
Mental health is still a bit of an anomaly to a lot of people, and many don’t have any idea where to begin with improving theirs. Let’s start by recognizing the mind develops habits in the way it thinks, due to the consistent style of thoughts we feed it throughout the day.
For example, someone who mostly looks at their life in a negative light will train their mind to habitually think in a pessimistic way, and since negativity has become their default, their mental health will suffer.
Likewise, if you choose to look at your life in a positive light, with optimism and gratitude, positivity will become your default and your mental health will flourish. You’ll find yourself having more good days than bad, more confidence than insecurity, more peace than anxiety, and overall, you will be a happier person.
Here are the major benefits of gratitude for your mental health.
Gratitude is good for your brain
Gratitude is incredibly beneficial for your mental health, but it is also highly valuable for your physical brain as well. When you consistently and genuinely practice gratitude, you lower your body’s cortisol levels (also known as the ‘stress hormone’). In addition, you naturally increase your body’s production of dopamine (also known as the ‘pleasure hormone’).
This makes authentic, conscious gratitude one of the simplest, most powerful, but often overlooked, ways of radically improving your mental health. True gratitude can feel like a superpower; it makes you mentally, emotionally, even chemically, happier and healthier.
This is not referring to the absent “thanks” you say to the cashier as you shove your change into your pocket and grab your groceries. Authentic, conscious gratitude would be to look the cashier in the eye, appreciating them for working this job, as well as a genuine thanksgiving for your ability to afford these groceries that are going to give you full meals to enjoy.
Expressing gratitude allows your mental health to not only stabilize, but radically improve in the long run if you commit to practicing it consistently, daily.
Gratitude can help you sleep better
Have you ever been awake at night, feeling utterly wired, because you can’t stop thinking about a rejection you experienced? Maybe it was from a university, a company you applied to work for, or from someone you asked on a date, and you simply can’t imagine not having it when you spent so long wishing, hoping, desiring it.
We can easily get obsessed with what we don’t have, and hyper focus on it to the point where we forget to remember all of the good things in our life — because we can’t stop thinking about the things that we don’t have.
Maybe your tossing and turning isn’t because of something so dramatic, though. It very well could be the result of an insensitive comment someone made, an unsettling article that showed up in your email, or perhaps you’re overthinking about your life, as so many of us do at night.
Insomnia is commonly linked to incessant thoughts and emotions that seem to become particularly tempestuous when we’re trying to go to sleep. Practicing gratitude, however, can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and experience sleep in a more restful, positive way. How you think, act and feel throughout the day lies down with you at night, whether you have focused on the positive or negative parts of your day.
Practicing gratitude calms your mind, it centers you around peace, and it reminds you how many good things are in your life, even if you’re feeling a bit beaten down by life.
We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people, and because of this, we can tend to focus on the negative things in life. As a result, instead of appreciating our body in the mirror, we only see what we consider to be flaws. Rather than be optimistic about our potential, we suffocate our minds with all the reasons we’ll never be this, or achieve that, and instead of being our own biggest cheerleader, we become our biggest critic.
Practicing gratitude shifts your mindset out of self-bullying into a state of confidence, because it trains your brain to focus on the positive over the negative. This doesn’t mean you think you’re perfect and don’t need to change, grow or improve — it means you appreciate the person you are right now, and you have hope for the person you will become in the future.
Want additional resources?
If you want to start on the journey of improving your mental health but don’t know where to begin, you can start by reaching out to the team here at Pyramid Online Counseling.