Gratitude journals, where you keep a list of things about your day that you’re thankful for, are growing in popularity. Being thankful for the little things can help you to think about the positives and shift your perspective. Read on for reasons why gratitude is so helpful.
1. Helps With Feeling Low/Depression
When feeling a bit down or having a prolonged period of depression, it can be easy to get into the habit of only seen the negative in your life.
At the end of each day, try writing a list of three things you are thankful for. This can be really hard when you’ve had a bad day but there is usually something that you can find. It can be big, like a job well done or a compliment, or it could be really small things. Like standing outside in the sunshine for a moment, or getting a text from a friend, or spending some time with your pet.
This might be really hard at first, and it may feel like you have nothing at all to be grateful for. If you can, enlist a friend’s help with this. Ask them to sit with you and write the list together.
Start to get into the habit of noticing the small things. Once this becomes second nature, you’ll find it easier to focus on the positives in your day.
2. Helps With Anxiety
Anxiety tends to be when you have a focus on the future – worry about an event, or fear of an upcoming situation.
A good way to help reduce anxiety when it hits is to focus more on the here and now. You can try a bit of mindfulness to bring yourself to the present moment. Or you can use gratitude to help.
Focusing on the positive aspects of your life can help you to reduce anxiety. Also see my 5 Tips For Anxiety to find ways to help you copes.
3. Improves Relationships
Not only is saying thank you a sign of politeness, saying thank you to someone can improve their view of you too!
Some people find giving compliments hard. It can feel quite vulnerable. If this is you then practice makes perfect. Start with just saying thank you to people who open doors for you or help you out with something small. Then start being more specific – letting someone know you appreciate them and why, will give them a boost and likely make them think more highly of you too!
4. Improves Your Self Worth
Gratitude can reduce the likelihood of social comparisons, a key problem which is often behind social anxiety and low mood. Advertising and social media often contribute to this, you see photo after photo of filtered, carefully shot scenes – which make you wonder how you measure up. When we see others as more interesting or more worthy than us, then it is easy to slip into a negative mindset.
Keeping a regular gratitude list can help you improve your sense of self worth by getting you to see the good things that are happening for you. It allows you to focus on the compliments, and good interactions you have, as opposed to dwelling on the negative.
5. Helps you feel better about life
In 2003, Emmons and McCullough conducted research with college students about the benefits of gratitude. What they found is that the students who counted their blessings regularly reported feeling better about life and more connected with others.
In the same study, they also tried a similar thing with adolescents where groups of 11-12 year olds were asked to list their reasons to be thankful within the classroom. Another group was asked to list the hassles from their week.
The group who were counting their blessing as opposed to their annoyances reported more optimism, fewer physical complaints and better satisfaction with school.
In another study (Chaplin, Rindfleisch, John,& Froh, 2013) 61 adolescents were given money that they could donate to charity, or keep for themselves. The group of teens who were asked to keep regular gratitude lists, donated 60% more than those in the control group.
So gratitude can have a positive impact on us and the people around us.
How to Get Started
Well, it’s pretty simple. Start by writing down 3 things from your day that you are thankful for. Notice the big things and the small.
Write, draw, type on your phone – however you do it doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting it out somehow. Keeping it so you can look back on it in your low moments is helpful, so consider keeping it in a notebook or journal, or a document on your device.
To get you started, take a look at my 3 Mindful Moments to start being grateful for the little things and living life in the moment.
Amy is a qualified counsellor working in Kent and online with adults and adolescents. Amy works with a range of issues and specialises in working with neurodivergent individuals and their families.
For more information, contact Amy here.