Being grateful and the power of gratitude is paraded by Positive Psychology as being good for your mental health as it is associated with “greater happiness,” but does it really work?
As someone who is passionate about constantly training and improving my mental health (not just physical health and fitness), I wanted to try and ‘be more grateful’ as my natural disposition is to focus more on what is going wrong in my life rather than what is going right.
Why is gratitude important for your mental health?
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
“People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further,” Harvard Health explains: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
So I decided to practice the art of being grateful by keeping a gratitude journal.
At first I kept it simple and wrote down all the things I am grateful for such as my home, my children, my friends, my family and my physical fitness. But then I realised I needed to be more specific so I broke it down into days and trying to be grateful each day. I wrote a mini diary ‘entry’ or point and then thought about what I am grateful for in this. So here is a snapshot that I wrote in the notes folder on my phone.
My Gratitude journal…
- Running to the gym listening to podcasts
I am grateful that I could afford to buy AirPods to listen to my music and podcasts. I am grateful for my physical health which means I can run to the gym and go to the gym.
- Spinning class at the gym
I am grateful that I have a gym near me I enjoy going to and that I can afford a gym membership.
- Coffee and writing book
I am grateful that I have a nice filter coffee machine and that I have a book being published this year on Eating Disorders. I am grateful for my recovery journey and also the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK that continues to care for me.
- Accountability phone call with my fashion designer friend Jordan Wake
I am grateful for the strong network of female friends I have around me and that I have found a synergy with a fellow businesswoman who also doesn’t ‘fit the norm’ and is striving to succeed whilst doing good and adding value to other people’s lives. I am thankful to Simply Ladies for connecting us.
- Doctors appointment to test my kidneys
I am grateful for NHS and free healthcare as well as the fact that my mental health nurse was concerned enough to make me book an appointment.
- Teaching social media
I am grateful for getting paid to do my work which I love and the opportunity to share skills.
- Writing my book at home
I am grateful for a warm place to live, work and to be able to access technology to enable me to pursue my goals.
- Yoga Class
I am grateful that there is a Yoga and Pilates studio near me as well as the fact that my blogging and vlogging helps me to work with gyms and fitness venues.
- 20s-30s group with my church
I am grateful for people hosting and voluntarily running such community groups as well as the fact that later in life I have found faith.
- Going to bed and reading The Miracle Morning book
I am grateful for my comfy bed which I helped to design thanks to the opportunities my blog offers me.
REFLECTION: So that’s just MONDAY! And I was feeling really poorly physically and mentally today. And whilst practicing gratitude didn’t take away the agonising cramps in my stomach, the swelling in my limbs or my mental illness, it did help me to see clearer with less fog and more appreciation and focus. It’s shown me that even in the little moments of our days that we often take for granted or complain about e.g. “I don’t want to go to the gym. Poor me not having a car and having to walk or run everywhere.” And actually I am really grateful for my day and to have been productive despite missing the kids lots but I am grateful that I will see them soon. I am grateful that I have been able to exercise and do work.
- Finishing off the first draft of writing my book at home and sending to my publishers
I feel so grateful to have a platform to share my story and to be able to help others using my own experiences. I am grateful that my publisher signed me up and has been loving and nurturing with me and other female writers .
- Running to the gym to do Spinning, abs and yoga classes
I am grateful to be able to enjoy and set aside time to follow my love of fitness and enjoy doing three half hour classes (I book these in like business meetings!). I am really grateful to see one of my best friend’s at the class, chat and she gave me a lift home too even though it is out of her way. I am so grateful for our friendship.
- Working from home
I am so grateful that I can now do most of my work from home so I rarely have to travel or commute. I run a few blogs mamamei.co.uk, yorkshirefamilies.co.uk, blogupnorth.co.uk, a vlog youtube.com/sophiemeilan and I also make films and do my journalism through my business EvokeMediaGroup.co.uk which I co-own with one of my best friend’s. Working from home means I can access my health appointments, be flexible around the kids most of the time and also make the most of my time.
- Recovery Group
I am grateful that I have been able to go to a recovery group at my Church led by my good friend and for one of my best friend’s to encourage me and prompt me to go. I am so grateful for my strong sisterhood who want the best for me and accept me as I am.
AND SO ON….
I even became more aware and grateful for doing the school run, getting the kids ready and cleaning the house.
Even on the Wednesday my mental health had been really bad and I felt like giving up on life. But somehow I dragged myself to Swim Hiit, Barre Ballet class, a mental health appointment and then on to a Women’s and Mental Health evening with a local networking group LA Collective and my lovely friend Charlotte (who also helps me with my Dyslexia and Dyspraxia!). And by the end of the day I felt so grateful that whilst I have days where I genuinely want to give up that my past experience guides me to just keep on going through the motions and sticking to plans. As well as all the amazing people there are in my life and in this world. It deflected all the ‘hateful’ behaviours I’d been receiving and struggling to deal with. But actually to focus on the event which included experiencing the healing powers of Reiki, Massage therapy, Yoga, a wellbeing talk and connecting with like-minded women and hearing other’s stories and personal journeys.
So rather than feeling like I couldn’t cope, I ended Wednesday by having a good night’s sleep and feeling grateful. I listed in my head as I fell asleep all the things I was grateful for.
My top Gratitude Diary, Practicing and Framing tips:
I am going now to try and focus my gratitude journaling and positive mindset from waht I’ve learnt.
- A Gratitude Jar: I am going to start a gratitude jar to put my top 7 things in each week. This is a good one to do with the family.
- Once a week share a Gratitude Meal or Coffee with family or friends and share what you’re grateful for or ask for help to find the positives in a challenging situation.
- Each day I am going to try and list 5 things I am grateful for and keep them different.
- Each day share with someone you are thankful for.
- Reframe the thoughts in my/your head. I.e. “I am rubbish at organising my office.” “I accept I am dyspraxic but I love the fact that I have so much work on that I love. And I am grateful for my friends around me who I can ask for help and guidance from.” And to focus on my skills and my ‘genius’ moments such as when I dance or think of creative ideas to vlog, write or make films about.
I often get annoyed that I am so sensitive but actually it’s a positive that I really feel for other people and it’s a skill to be empathetic and feel other’s emotions.
So I really think being more grateful and gratitude has really helped my mental health and I can see the benefits it has had on my outlook. It can often be quite a challenging thing to do, especially when life is tough but actually I have found that that’s when I need it the most.
What are you grateful for? And how are you going to aim to express gratitude?