That old saying, “count your blessings” has more power to improve your mental health than you might think. Gratitude has been shown to have a negative relationship to depression and positive relationship to life satisfaction. Some studies have shown that grateful people are more agreeable, open, and experience less depressive symptoms than those who have a low sense of gratitude. In a 2003 study, Emmons and McCullough found that people who focused on gratitude in their lives for 10 weeks showed significantly more optimism in many areas of their lives, including health and exercise. Expressing your thanks can really improve your overall sense of well-being.
Gratitude is something you can build! Practicing gratitude can be a simple habit of focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of your life. Try writing a list of 3 things you’re grateful for each day. Or write a thank you letter to someone and deliver it in person. Even taking just a moment each day to mentally recognize the gifts of your life can cultivate your gratitude. As with most healthy habits, it is more effective if you can practice a little everyday – but a quick gratitude check when you’re feeling down or overwhelmed can also help lift your mood.
Try it now! Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and bring to mind something you are grateful for. It can be one thing or many things. Fill your awareness with that sense of gratitude. If you like, imagine that feeling of gratitude as a light and visualize that light expanding each time you inhale. Imagine the light growing to fill your whole body. Then, imagine that light – the feeling of gratitude – growing beyond the boundaries of your body so that you are filled and surrounded by that light. Imagine that light continuing to expand each time you inhale until it spreads to all of the people that you love. Imagine the light growing even bigger, even brighter until is spread to all of the people that they love. Imagine the light – that feeling of gratitude – expanding until it fills the whole planet, that light shining on all the beings present. Then, imagine the light focusing into the space around your heart. Hold that feeling of gratitude in the space around your heart.