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The Transition House, Inc.

What does gratitude have to do with mental health?

Thanksgiving sign

Small, healthy habits can have a positive impact on your mental health. A daily practice of expressing gratitude can improve your emotional and physical health, and even positively affect your self-esteem and build resilience.

What is gratitude?

The dictionary defines gratitude simply as “thankfulness.” You may already be practicing gratitude without knowing it. Keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings in prayer, or meditating on what went well each day are different ways of expressing gratitude.

Benefits of gratitude

  1. Gratitude makes you happier. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can reduce feelings like envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.
  2. Gratitude improves self-esteem by reducing the tendency to compare oneself to others. 
  3. Gratitude can help you get a good night’s sleep. In 2011, a study reported that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before bed helped people have better quality sleep for longer periods of time.
  4. Gratitude promotes healthier relationships. When you practice gratitude, empathy and sensitivity towards others increases.
  5. Gratitude impacts your physical health. Grateful people are more likely to exercise and attend regular check-ups.

How to practice gratitude

Practice makes perfect. The more you express feelings of gratitude, the easier it will be to return to a positive mindset. Each day, practice completing one or more of the following prompts.

Daily gratitude prompts:

  • Today, I am grateful for...
  • Three things that went well today are...
  • I am happy to be alive today because…
  • My favorite thing about today was…
  • Today, I am most looking forward to…
  • One person in my life that I am thankful for is…
  • Something I learned today was…

Gratitude and mental health

Beginning a gratitude practice can positively impact your life. Studies show that gratitude can improve your physical, emotional, and mental health. While gratitude is not a replacement for therapy or medication for a diagnosable mental health condition, it is a lifestyle change that can work in conjunction with your treatment. Start small with a list of items you’re thankful for each day. In time, expressing gratitude will become second nature.

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