Gratitude is something which comes up a lot in recovery and something we talk about a lot in clinic. We’re strong believers in the link between practising gratitude and better mental health. Put simply, gratitude encourages us to be thankful for what and who we have; embracing the positive aspects of our lives (however small) in a world that can so often be critical – both externally and internally. It takes politeness to the next level and starts from within so that we can really feel a sense of appreciation rather than just speaking it. Over time, it encourages us to listen to and act on our true inner voice rather than letting negative thoughts and behaviours prevail. Perhaps it’s the greatest form of mindfulness we have at our fingertips?
There are endless benefits to practising gratitude, but here are some of the key ones:
- It makes you feel better.
- It reduces comparison and the need to strive for perfection.
- It allows you to show yourself and others more compassion.
- It nurtures the optimistic, ‘well’ inner voice rather than the critical, ‘unwell’ one.
- It makes scary/uncomfortable situations more manageable.
- It teaches positive coping mechanisms rather than destructive ones.
- It encourages living in the moment, enabling you to reconnect with yourself and what’s around you.
- It also has positive effects on physical health such as the ability to sleep and lowering blood pressure.
For a lot of people, it’s really difficult to hone a sense of gratitude when you are not feeling well, either physically or mentally, or when you are so focused on everything that’s going wrong in your life and what you don’t have. Culturally this is a widespread focus even on the news where there may be one token positive story at the end of all of the pieces on everything bad that is going on in the world. Even with all that going on, it is possible to cultivate a grateful mindset. If you were asked to name 3 things right now that you are grateful for, you may be able to do that without thinking too much or you may struggle. That’s completely okay. A gratitude mindset comes with practise.
When we talk about gratitude, it can refer to lots of little things that may not have even crossed your mind at the time, rather than waiting for one big thing to happen or for somebody to do something that you really appreciate.
Here are a few ideas for how to practise gratitude:
Write a gratitude list
Lists are a really good tool to help you to identify just how many things you have to be grateful for already and how much you may have taken for granted. Set aside some time where you write it all down – no matter how small or silly you think it is.
Use gratitude prompts
There are lots of gratitude prompts all over the internet, on apps and in podcasts/books. Here are 10 to get you started:
- 3 things I am grateful for about my family
- 3 things I am grateful for about my friends
- 3 things I am grateful for that happened today
- I am grateful for my workplace/school because…
- 3 things I am grateful for that I see
- 3 things I am grateful for that I hear
- 3 things I am grateful for that I touch
- 3 things I am grateful for that I taste
- Today I helped another person by…
- I am grateful for my body because…
Keep a gratitude journal
Each day write down things or people that you are grateful for/to. Even small things count such as the weather staying dry when the forecast was rain or the roof over your head.
Make a gratitude jar or box
Write things down on separate slips of paper that you are grateful for and put them in a jar or box as and when they come to you. At the end of each week/month or whenever you feel you need to, pull some out and remind yourself of these things.
Carry a gratitude object
Choose a stone/rock/shell or special item which has caught your eye – maybe it is pretty, smooth, has an interesting texture or colour(s). Keep it with you and every day, take time out to stop and touch it and think of something/someone you are grateful for.
Make something visual
Perhaps you have an interest in drawing or photography, animation or knitting, whatever your hobby, rather than writing down what you are grateful for, get creative in other ways to represent your feelings of gratitude visually.
Write a letter/note to someone who has made a positive impact on your life
We don’t always say how we really feel so a letter is an excellent way of expressing feelings of gratitude to another person or even to ourselves. It makes us and them feel great, and is such a special touch in a time where everything is consumed digitally.
Go out for a walk
Whilst out on a walk, notice the colour of trees/flowers, the sound of birds, the warmth of the sun or the cold air, the texture of the ground beneath your feet. A really simple starting point to be grateful for is nature and everything it does to alight our senses.
Accept compliments gracefully
Accepting compliments when you don’t feel worthy is tough. Quite often, compliments are unfortunately around things which fuel our sense of this such as we look great but really suggesting this is the case because we’ve lost weight. But in fact, when we’re surrounded by the right people for us, compliments can help us to feel that gratitude towards ourselves and those giving us them as we can begin to recognise what other people see in us. We’re so good at holding onto the negatives, but what if we became that good at accepting and believing the positives?
Choosing to have an attitude of gratefulness can alter your perception in life, allowing you to experience true happiness. Our energy dictates the experiences we have and the life we create for ourselves. Gratitude shifts our thinking from one of lack and negativity, to one of abundance and prosperity. By focusing on the latter, we are on a different frequency – we put out more of that positive energy and attract more goodness into our lives.
Here at the Recover Clinic we combine evidence-based treatment with mindfulness practices and other therapies to design individual tailored programs. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, email our advice team on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0845 603 6530.