Yes, it’s a bit cliché to be writing about gratitude during the month of Thanksgiving. But an “attitude of gratitude” doesn’t need to be saved just for Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude has been a tool in a clinician’s toolbox for decades and has been foundational to the Christian faith for several thousand years.
Oxford Languages defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness.” Simply put, gratitude is the practice of cultivating a genuine appreciation for what we already have. It acknowledges the appreciation for those gifts and encourages us “to pay it forward.” Being grateful instills in us the belief that you are thankful for what you have, RIGHT NOW, in this very moment, rather than worrying about what you don’t have or won’t have at some point in the future.
You might be thinking, “that’s a nice definition of gratitude, but what does gratitude have to do with health and well- ness?” Well, gratitude has a major impact on our physical and mental health. Studies have proven that being grateful can help prevent disease and can even help us live longer. Practicing gratitude can LITERALLY change the way our brains operate.
When we practice gratitude, our brains release dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. They make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood, making us feel happy from the inside.
Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle. Your brain only has so much power to focus its attention. It cannot easily focus on both positive and negative stimuli.
In addition, your brain loves to fall for confirmation bias (looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true). Dopamine reinforces this as well. So, once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for.
To begin practicing gratitude:
- Name three things you are grateful for each day–perhaps write them down in a gratitude
- Find time for prayer, meditation and
- Share your gratitude with others-make an effort to share how grateful you are for “Pay it forward.”
- Challenge yourself to be grateful in difficult
Romans 12:9-10 — “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Susie Merrihew, MSW, LCSW