Is gratitude the answer?

Is gratitude the answer when you are feeling depressed?

People in the United States celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday at the end of every November. But it will probably look vastly different this year. The pandemic squashed tradition. Even if families meet this year, some will be missing due to death and illness. Food may be less bountiful because of lost income. 

 But even in the midst of a pandemic, gratitude might be the best way to cope. 

Gratitude is a learned character quality. ISP’s DreamMakers-DreamBreakers curriculum for elementary students builds thankfulness in children through activities and stories. Developing appreciation is essential even in tough times, like the pandemic, children can choose to be thankful.

Gratitude helps your mental and emotional health. 

Brene Brown, an author, scholar, and public speaker says, “Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.” Brown’s family puts gratitude into practice by sharing one thing they are thankful for during dinner.

On one of her Mentally Strong People Friday Fix podcasts, Amy Morin, an author, college psychology instructor, and psychotherapist, described how to make an uncomfortable emotion more tolerable. She says when people “name their feelings”, it reduces stress from those feelings. By naming and numbering your emotions, it causes a brief distraction in your brain to help you process them both now and in the future. An example of this is “I feel angry, and I am an 8 on a scale between 1 and 10.”

Author Gabrielle Oettingen discusses “mental contrasting” in her book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking.” This is dreaming with a dose of reality. In other words, dream your dreams, but visualize the obstacles in the way that would distract you from achieving them. 

Gratitude benefits your physical health.

Having an attitude of gratitude is more than beneficial to your mental and emotional well-being; it helps the whole body stay healthy. 

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine discovered that journaling what you are thankful for every day could boost your physical health. Participants in this study lessened their inflammation and had healthier heart rhythms during this two-month study. 

When participants showed higher levels of thankfulness, they also slept better.

Dr. Dorothy VanderJagt, an author and educator, believes in keeping a gratitude journal, which she talks about on a podcast discussing her new book/journal about self-care, Permission to Pause.” Journaling will help teachers navigate life when they feel overwhelmed, whether it is amid COVID-19 or not. Her journal prompts ask readers what they are thankful for and why? How are you making a difference? What is an action step that you can take?

Applying gratitude to your life

  • Share one thing you are thankful for daily during dinner tonight.
  • Every day at an appointed time, say out loud what you are grateful for
  • Every day, write down every day three things you are thankful for in a gratitude journal and track your progress. 
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