For many people, events in the past two years have taken a toll on their mental health. If you want to be your best self in 2022, it’s essential for you to see the world through a new set of lenses as we head into the new year.
To do this, I recommend practicing gratitude. Now, what does this mean exactly? And how does practicing gratitude improve your mental health?
With gratitude, there’s no one-size-fits-all definition. But I think we can all agree that it centers around recognizing and appreciating. This can be for a positive outcome, your abilities, opportunities, or mere existence, to name a few.
As simple as it sounds, when you’re in a funk or having a bad day, month or year, it’s easy to dwell on the negative things happening … and this directly affects your mental health.
In fact, some studies have found that grateful people tend to be healthier – physically and mentally – and that increasing gratitude can improve your health and habits.
Unsure on how to be more grateful? Here are three secrets to shift your attitude in the new year:
Secret #1: Keep a Gratitude Journal
Most people think of expressing gratitude around Thanksgiving or during the holiday season. As a daily practice, this activity helps shift your perspective and positively affects your health.
To do this exercise, ask yourself the question: “What am I grateful for today?”
In response, write down at least 10 things you’re grateful for every single day.
Secret #2: Write a Gratitude Letter
The concept here is that you write a letter of gratitude to someone you want to thank but haven’t done so yet. You can also mail or deliver the letter to them.
This exercise can be very beneficial and quite moving (or tear-jerking 😹) for the person writing the letter as well as the receiver. It allows you to collect your thoughts about a situation, convey your gratitude and explain why it meant so much to you.
Secret #3: Conduct a Death Reflection
As odd as this sounds, thinking about one’s death can increase gratitude. During a 2018 study conducted by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “undergraduate students were asked to either imagine dying in a very specific and visceral manner or to more generally imagine their death.” Participants experienced more gratitude after the activity than those who were asked to write a reflection on their “typical day.” Researchers concluded that “because our very existence is a constant benefit that we adapt to easily [on a daily basis], this is a benefit [gratitude] that is easily taken for granted.”
Now, this type of exercise might sound morbid, but reflecting on one’s death tends to increase appreciation for life … which can promote an attitude of gratitude.
These three tips can help you identify opportunities for gratitude in your life. By being more mindful of things you are grateful for, you can shift your mindset and experience better mental health.
Do you have a gratitude practice different from the above? Let me know in the comments!
Are you looking for more tips and suggestions? Read our other blogs. We cover a range of mental health topics, from self-care and relationships to managing stress and having hard conversations. Click here to read our other blogs.