Gratitude is an important step in building and maintaining mental wellness. Mindfulness of what we are thankful for and the building of a consistent gratitude practice shape our thought patterns and fosters continued mental wellness. The holiday season, so busy with gift giving, dinners and social gatherings is a perfect time of year to reflect on all that we are grateful for.
Research shows that gratitude boosts optimism and satisfaction while reducing depression and physical pain. Gratefulness also soothes anxiety; we cannot experience anxiety and gratitude at the same time. It has also been shown to change our brain chemistry: gratitude practices strengthen existing synapses and build new ones, shaping the brain and making gratefulness and the positive feelings associated with it a way of life.
A gratitude journal is a wonderful way to begin consistently expressing feelings of gratitude. We may also express gratefulness to those around us either verbally or through our actions. When cultivating gratefulness, it is important to be mindful of negative emotions and, when they crop up, replace them with thoughts of gratitude and positivity that generate happiness.
The holidays are a perfect time to begin gratitude practice. We can begin by being mindful of the sights, sounds, smells and company that make us happy and express that gratitude both to ourselves and to those around us. With continued practice of gratitude and positivity, our brain patterns change and happiness becomes habit.