People have been going through tremendous difficulties over the past two years. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, and numerous clients are sharing anger about how their lives have been disrupted due to the pandemic and the increased stressors they are facing.
A large percentage of recent sessions have encouraged individuals to focus on those things they are grateful for. With Thanksgiving this month, there is no better time to write about the power of gratefulness and how it can help us cope and improve our functioning during difficult times.
A Harvard article in August indicated that gratitude is associated with increased happiness, positive emotions, improved health, increased resiliency and stronger relationships. Research also shows that when we focus on gratitude, our brains release dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that increases positive emotions. It also increases serotonin, which is considered the happiness chemical. Many studies also show that our brains can be rewired with neural pathways from negative thinking to pathways of positive thinking. People who make statements of gratitude are starting to experience less stress, depression and anxiety.
For example, an individual who is experiencing stress due to work — thinking they hate the job, abhorring the heaviness of responsibility and believing they are trapped in their situation — can instead reflect on the ability they have to work, their gifting at the job and the steps they are taking to advance professionally. This tool can be utilized in numerous situations to change your thinking, and therefore to change your emotions.
I encourage clients to begin a daily gratitude journal in which they write down one to three things they are grateful for each day. Meditation also helps with the process of gratitude, and there are many apps that individuals can download to access this practice. Meditating can prepare you for a day of increased well-being and a positive mindset. Another recommendation is that anytime a negative thought occurs, challenge it with positive evidence that goes against it, as if you are putting that negative perspective on trial and you are the prosecutor.
It is true that we are going through difficult and stressful times, but it is also true that we have many things to be grateful for. These next months, I encourage all readers to truly reflect on the positives in their lives and to adopt a mindset of gratitude and thanksgiving.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.