What if there were an activity that you could do any time of day, that took only 5-10 minutes of your time, that was free and was known to reduce depression, anxiety, burnout and improve physical health and wellbeing? Would you try it out? Add it to your new year habits?
What if I told you this new habit was practicing gratitude? It might sound too simple/inexpensive/easy to be so powerful, but it’s true! Gratitude practice was shown in a 2021 meta-analysis to reduce depression and particular versions of gratitude practice have shown benefits in reducing anxiety and burnout and increasing feeling of satisfaction and meaning in life. Gratitude practice helps our brains to overcome feelings of scarcity by focusing on what we HAVE, adjusts our mental focus to the present to help us shift out of excessive past and future thinking and can connect us to a greater sense of meaning and purpose in the world when we look more closely and more regularly, at what is going well.
If you’d like to begin practicing gratitude, consider the following tips:
Practicing gratitude is not about willing ourselves to feel positive feelings. It’s simply taking time to acknowledge what is going well or has benefited us in the course of our day. This expands our perspective and brings balance to our outlook on life.
Identifying what we are grateful for doesn’t mean we don’t feel other feelings. We can practice having gratitude for one aspect of life while still feeling sadness or anger about another.
Perfection and shame are not part of the equation! Practice any time of the day, in any way that works for you. Write them down, name them in your mind during your morning commute, before bed or think of them while you’re in the shower. Whatever and wherever works! It all is beneficial.
For maximum benefit, be specific. For example, instead of identifying “my health” as a gratitude, I might say “I’m grateful I have the stamina to work a full day at my job.” Instead of “my relationship,” I could say “I’m grateful for the way my partner is kind and encouraging to me when I doubt myself.” Specificity can give us a more vibrant and full experience when we practice gratitude.
Now that you have a better understanding of a daily gratitude practice, would you try it out? Add it to your new year habits?
Amanda Jacobson, LMHC, is a licensed therapist in clinical practice since 2013. She has experience working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with group and individual therapy and she has a passion for working with people recovering from addictions, as well as codependency, depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship challenges and major life transitions. She earned her master’s degree from Boston University.
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