Managing Your Mental Health: A Surprising Strategy

Recently a friend of mine has been dealing with some health issues. She has had to go for bloodwork weekly and has had to undergo a few procedures requiring general anesthetic. 

A thing like that will make you grateful for your health. 

Have you ever had an experience like that? You hear about someone your age going through something difficult…a divorce, a loss, a health scare…and you think, “I’m so grateful I’m not dealing with that right now”. 

It’s impossible to be grateful all the time.

Our brains regularly engage in something called hedonic adaptation. We adapt to the good (and bad) things in our lives because it wouldn’t serve us to be constantly grateful for every easy breath or upset about something irritating that happened two days ago. Our brains adjust to our reality. 

It turns out, though, that cultivating a daily gratitude practice can have a positive impact on our mental well-being. A daily gratitude practice even has a moderate impact on symptoms of anxiety and depression

Part of the magic of a gratitude practice is that it trains our brains to focus on the good. If you engage in daily practice, you will soon notice the things worthy of your gratitude. 

Here are some suggestions for daily gratitude practices:

  1. Start a gratitude journal. Each night before bed, write down three things that you’re grateful for. From the simple to the elaborate, nothing is off-limits.
  2.  Each night, write the best thing about the day on a scrap of paper and put it in a box/container to read at the end of the week, month, or year.
  3. At supper (or any shared meal), tell your family what you’re grateful for. Encourage them to share with you, too.
  4. Each morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself something you’re grateful for.
  5. Get a “grateful buddy” and each day, text each other something you’re feeling some gratitude about.

Although a gratitude practice seems simple and unlikely to impact your overall mental well-being, it’s an easy way to focus your brain on the good in your life, which can have a lasting impact. 

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