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by Brittney Schrick, Ph.D., CFLE - September 23, 2021
You have probably been told at some point in your life to “count your blessings.”
That phrase is written on door mats, cross-stitched on samplers, sewn onto throw pillows,
and sung in songs. It is easy to dismiss the idea as simplistic when it comes to brain
health and mental well-being, but you may be surprised by the strength of counting
your blessings and intentional gratitude practice.
The definition of gratitude is “the quality or state of being thankful; readiness
to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude comes very easily to some
people and is less obvious to others. Your personality may lend itself to constant
displays or feelings of gratitude, or you may lean more toward finding the negatives
or potential problems in a situation. As a group, we need both types of personalities.
The positive folks help keep us moving along, looking only at the good things that
could happen and finding the good even when things go wrong. The more pessimistic
folks help us prepare for things that might go wrong and are often great protectors
who we want around when there’s a crisis.
No matter which end of the spectrum you identify with more, everyone can benefit from
regular, intentional gratitude practice.
It is very common to say thank you as a matter of habit rather than a true feeling
of gratitude. One way to begin intentional gratitude practice is to start paying closer
attention to those times we say “thank you.”
This type of process can help us achieve the two key components of practicing gratitude:
Paying attention to why and to whom we’re saying “thank you” can offer great insight
into those blessings we’re told to count.
There are lots of ways we can practice gratitude daily.
We have our plans for intentional gratitude practice, but what is the point? What
will we gain by showing gratitude on purpose every day?
Note: Gratitude practice should not be a substitute for medical treatments for depression
or pain management. This practice may, however, be useful in addition to other treatments.
Over time, people who practice gratitude report fewer physical symptoms of illness,
more optimism, greater goal attainment, decreased anxiety and depression, and other
health benefits. Remember the word "practice." Practice is not perfection. Give yourself
grace to learn over time, to take breaks, and to stop and start again. This practice
is for your benefit, not to prove anything to anyone else.
Gratitude Journal Prompts
Emmons, R. (2010). “Why is gratitude good? Greater Good Magazine https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good
Henning, M., Fox, G. R., Kaplan, J., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2017). A potential
role for mu-Opioids in mediating the positive effects of gratitude. Frontiers in Psychology, 21. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00868/full
“How to practice gratitude.” https://www.mindful.org/an-introduction-to-mindful-gratitude/