Practicing gratitude sounds like a difficult task if you feel down, or worse…depressed. The last thing you want to do when you feel dejected and unhappy is hear someone tell you that “You should be thankful for…”
You might think, They don’t understand. It’s not that easy. You may even feel angry or betrayed by that person just for making the suggestion. These are normal thoughts to have when someone tries to shift your focus during a painful moment. Gratitude is going to make me feel better? The truth is, no. And yes.
During the onset of difficult emotions, it would be challenging to channel that energy into something positive. It would be like trying to pretend 20 degree weather felt like 75 degrees. However, the notion that positivity in the form of gratitude can make you feel better is equally true. It’s a matter of timing.
Gratitude is something that you practice daily. It’s something that you do so often it becomes an automatic thinking pattern. Over time, this practice re-trains your brain to focus on positive aspects of your life; particularly the small things that usually go unnoticed. Gratitude is not an In the moment quick fix to numb pain. In fact, when it comes to emotional pain, we actually need to feel it rather than numb it; but that’s a different conversation. The point is, Gratitude is something you do in preparation for the dark times. Practicing Gratitude is Preventative!
Does this mean practicing gratitude will prevent sadness, fear, anger, worry? Absolutely not. To be human is to feel those emotions, which is in truth a gift. Nevertheless, gratitude practices can reduce the impact of these emotions, meanwhile improving your ability to tolerate them. Imagine having the flu. Now imagine that if you did 10 jumping jacks per day–every day–you would minimize the symptoms of the flu and reduce its duration. Would you be motivated to do 10 jumping jacks per day? I guess it depends on whether or not you’ve ever had the flu.
But the fact remains, consistent practice of gratitude packs a huge punch when it comes to healing the mind. “The effects of gratitude, when practiced daily can be almost the same as medications. It produces a feeling of long-lasting happiness and contentment,” says Chowdhury, M.R. (May 26, 2021) The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety and Grief, PositivePsychology. Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson (2005) explain that daily gratitude journaling reduces stress and improves sleep quality.
In fact, there are innumerous articles based on research across the world demonstrating the positive effects of gratitude. Some of which include being more optimistic, better decision making, improved physical health, better sleep, improved mood, and improved relationships.
So maybe you wouldn’t do 10 jumping jacks per day just to reduce the duration and intensity of flu symptoms–but would you write 1-3 things per day that you appreciate if it could actually make you … Happier?