How To Practice Gratitude For Mental Health
Dorsey's Journey With Gratitude
Mastermind CEO Dorsey Standish always tells her mindfulness students that even though daily mindfulness meditation has changed her life, the best decision she's ever made was a 2016 New Year’s Resolution to keep a daily gratitude journal. No other habit has had such a far-reaching effect on how she thinks and interacts with the world around me. She says she can now see the silver linings in even the most difficult challenges.
Why Gratitude Practice Is So Important
Gratitude is so important because as humans we have evolved with what’s called a negativity bias. We are prone to seeing what’s wrong and what’s dangerous in our environment. This tendency has kept us alive (avoiding the dangerous tribe, remembering where the poisonous berries grow), but it definitely doesn’t keep us happy.
Have you ever hosted a party or given a presentation to rave reviews, and then one person looks at you funny or gives you a neutral response? Afterwards, all you can think about is the one or two people who didn’t tell you it was the best thing ever. This is the human negativity bias!
As psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson espouses, “Negative experiences stick to us like Velcro. The positive ones slide off like they’re coated in Teflon.”
Practicing Gratitude Supports Mental Health
A gratitude practice is a great way to combat our negativity bias and refocus our attention on positive experiences. Research shows that regular gratitude practice strengthens relationships, boosts immunity, improves sleep quality, increases overall wellbeing, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. What’s more, grateful people exhibit more mental strength and resilience, and they take more positive action towards their goals.
How To Transform Your Mindset With Gratitude
- Induce The Positivity Bias. The fastest way to uplift your state of mind is to ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?” Just that simple question alters your mindset from searching for what’s wrong to seeking out what’s right.
- Start With Gratitude. At your meetings and/or mealtime, invite all participants to start by sharing one thing that they are grateful for.
- Feel Your Feet. We take so much for granted, including our amazing, healthy, supportive bodies. Take a moment to feel your feet on the ground and appreciate all the places they’ve carried you. You can bring this grateful awareness into the rest of your day, acknowledging your able hands as you type or eat, your healthy ears as you listen to music.
- Write Thank You Notes. ’Tis the season to be grateful! Many gratitude studies show incredible benefits from writing just one gratitude note per week. When you receive gifts or experiences this season, consider writing physical thank you notes to connect deeply with the act of giving thanks.
- Celebrate. Our brains are wired not only to look for what’s wrong, but also to continue planning for the future. This means we rarely stop and fully celebrate our accomplishments. To counteract these biases and reap the rewards of your hard work, write down 1-3 “celebrations” every day. For major accomplishments, consider having an office luncheon or going out with friends or family.
- Journal Your Gratitude. Write down what you’re grateful for (the more specific your entry and the more emotion evoked, the better the results). Consider journaling daily using the following category prompts to keep you inspired:
- Relationship that has helped you grow
- Something that happened today or yesterday
- Physical object near you
- Friendship that gives you energy and support
- Opportunity you have today (or this week)
- Create An Abundance Jar. Consider creating a physical representation of your gratitudes and celebrations by writing them down on brightly colored notes and placing them in a jar. The colorful jar will remind you of your practice and give you inspiration to reread if you’re feeling down.
“It is not joyful people who are grateful. It is grateful people who are joyful.”
–Brother David Steindl-Rast
Bring Mindfulness To Your Workplace
If you’re looking for more mindfulness tips and techniques for greater ease, focus and well-being, work with Mastermind to build your own mindful community in the workplace! Contact us to learn how to bring research-backed mental wellness to your team.