5 Ways Being Thankful Impacts Your Mental Health


The beginning of November marks a shift in the year into the season of gratitude and thankfulness. The
 holiday season is here and that usually means a time to gather with friends and family for meals and celebrations. It’s also the time where you start reflecting on the year, everything that’s happened, and all that you’ve learned.

This year has been full of massive, sudden, and unexpected changes. You are anything but alone if you’ve gone through drastic upheaval to your usual routine. The United States and the world as a whole have experienced a massive impact from the pandemic. Being thankful might feel difficult this year but it’s one of the most important things you can do.

It’s hard to see the silver lining when things are as tough as they are right now. Whether it’s job loss, separation from loved ones, or something else, it’s been a challenging year. Finding gratitude and being thankful impacts your mental health, though. Leaning into the attitude of thankfulness of the Thanksgiving season can help more than you realize!

Why should you find reasons to be thankful today?

1. Finding gratitude encourages you to reflect on your day or week.

Taking time to practice being thankful encourages you to reflect on your day or week. It gives you a moment to pause and consider the many things there are to be grateful for each day. It’s easy to forget the importance of some of the seemingly simple things in your everyday life.

Food, clothing, shelter, and utilities are all incredible things to have access to. Being in good health and having an able body are two incredible gifts. Relationships with friends and family members are always something to feel grateful for. You’ll find dozens of things to be thankful for as you reflect over your day or week. This great practice has positive impacts on your mental health.

2. Expressing thankfulness can improve your mood.

Showing gratitude can improve your mood, even when you focus on the smallest things around you. Many studies conducted during the past decade revealed the correlation between an attitude of gratitude and feelings of happiness. While gratitude is not a cure for serious mental health issues like depression or anxiety, it does offer a mood boost for many people.

It’s harder to focus on negative or toxic emotions when you’re filled with gratitude. Thankfulness shifts your attention to the positive people, events, and experiences in your life. Gratitude is not a quick fix or immediate solution but incorporating a practice can create a positive impact on your mood over time.

3. Practicing gratitude may improve your physical health.

Some research shows that practicing gratitude may improve your physical health, too! Though it might not be the thankfulness directly, people with an attitude of gratitude are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors. Individuals who practice gratitude tend to take care of their physical health by eating well and engaging in regular exercise.

These positive actions result in higher levels of energy, a stronger immune system, and better sleep. Making good physical health choices leads to beneficial effects on your mental health, too. A balanced diet, exercise, and good sleep all have a positive impact on your mind.

4. Feeling gratitude may help you feel more optimistic.

There’s an essay titled, “Why Gratitude is Good,” written by Robert Emmons, a leading expert in the field of gratitude. In his essay, Emmons explains that gratitude is “an affirmation of goodness.” It acknowledges the positives both in your life and the world as a whole. Beautiful, wonderful things still happen despite the overwhelming situation you may find yourself in.

Practicing being thankful impacts your mental health in a positive, healthy way. Finding reasons to feel optimistic is crucial in a time like the present. It’s difficult to look on the bright side when it feels like parts of the world are so dark. Looking for those bright spots in a time like this can help you feel optimistic in spite of your current circumstances.

5. Showing thanks builds connections with others.

Expressing gratitude helps you connect with other people, from friends to family to the cashier at the grocery store. Building connections with others might be more important now than ever before. In a time where it’s easy to feel isolated, apart, and alone, connect with others by showing thanks. Most everyone is missing human connection at the moment.

It’s easy to take a few extra moments to ask someone how they’re doing and thank them for their help. Showing gratitude is free. It requires nothing but a shift in your attitude. Building connections with others improves your mental health. With all the other benefits above, too, it’s hard to find a reason not to choose a perspective of gratitude.

Being Thankful Doesn’t Mean Ignoring the Challenges

Choosing gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring all the negatives in your life. It’s not blind optimism in the face of difficulties or challenges. There’s no denying the struggles that everyone is dealing with this year. But this is all the more reason to search for the highs amidst a year made up of many lows.

Finding thankfulness for the good things in your life can provide a counterbalance. You can acknowledge the hard times while also embracing hope at the same time. If you only focus on the obstacles it’s harder to find a reason to keep the faith. Being thankful impacts your mental health, from your mood to your relationships with others to your overall outlook on the world.

Easy Ways to Develop a Sense of Gratitude

Now that you know some of the ways being thankful impacts your mental health, how can you practice it in your life? There are many ways to develop a daily sense of gratitude. Try a few of the activities below or come up with a couple of your own ideas for feeling thankful this holiday season!

Write a gratitude list

Writing a gratitude list or keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most common ways people practice. Starting or ending your day with gratitude is a great habit to develop. Take a couple of minutes in the morning or evening to jot down some things you’re grateful for. There are few better exercises to reap the benefits of being thankful and its impacts on your mental health.

Send a thank-you note

Handwritten thank-you notes are much less common than they used to be. Send a thank-you note to someone in your life! You can write one to thank them for a recent favor or just for being a significant part of your life!

Make a call to a friend or family member

In lieu of or in addition to a thank you note, make a call to a friend or family member. You’re probably making more phone calls than before but it’s still a great way to express gratitude to your loved ones. Reach out to let them know you’re thinking of them!

Go for a nature walk

Heading outside for a walk through nature is a great way to get in touch with your sense of gratitude. The shining sun, trees, plants, and animals are a reminder of how big and beautiful the world is. Go for a nature walk to find a sense of thankfulness and for a positive impact on your mental health.

Seeking Help for Mental Health

While developing gratitude is a helpful practice it can’t solve all the mental health struggles in the world. Sometimes you need additional help when you’re living with mental illness. The holidays can be a challenging time of year and difficult to navigate when you’re fighting your mind.

Mental health treatment at Lifeskills South Florida is always available to anyone seeking help. All of our clinicians in our safe, therapeutic environment are certified at either the master’s or doctoral level. Our Medical Director, Dr. Daniel Bober, has his degree from Yale and supervises the other clinicians. Whether you need the intensive support of an inpatient program or the flexibility of an outpatient program, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about the programs we have to offer. Our admissions counselors are available and waiting for your call!

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