Is it possible to be a ‘responsible adult’, keeping up to date on the happenings of the world, while also keeping a positive mindset?
Anyone who has spent 5 minutes watching the news will tell you that they very rarely feel good after learning about the latest statistics, words of warning, and cautious call outs.
Without watching the news, without giving in to following the latest FB debate, it’s much easier to keep a positive mindset and find reasons to be grateful.
Last week I wrote about 5 ways to protect your mental health, listing ways to keep your mental health strong, while keeping your physical body healthy and safe. To add to that list of 5, I’d like to highlight one more: the healing power of gratitude.
How Gratitude Helps Heal The Mind
To put it simply, gratitude is the act of acknowledging the good things in life.
“Thanking others, thanking ourselves, Mother Nature, or the Almighty – gratitude in any form can enlighten the mind and make us feel happier. It has a healing effect on us. (Russell and Fosha, 2008).”‘The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief‘ – Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology wrote an article breaking down the healing science of gratitude:
Along with Mental Health Researchers, Positive Psychology in the recent years have established an overwhelming connection between gratitude and better mental health. Including habits like gratitude journaling in your daily routine can promote less stress, improved quality of sleep, and builds a stronger emotional awareness.
“Neural mechanisms that are responsible for feelings of gratitude have grabbed attention (Wood et al, 2008). Studies have demonstrated that at the brain level, moral judgments involving feelings of gratefulness are evoked in the right anterior temporal cortex (Zahn et al. 2008).‘The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief‘ – Positive Psychology
In the same study, it was revealed that the reason why some of us are naturally more grateful than others, is the neurochemical differences at the Central Nervous System. People who express and feel gratitude have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (Zahn et al, 2014).”
“When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.‘The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief‘ – Positive Psychology
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.”
How To Practice Gratitude on A Bad Day
It’s easy to get swallowed up in the strong emotions that often arise from a traumatic event, difficult conversation, or in the midst of a depression episode.
Just recently I was triggered into an emotional ‘meltdown’ from feeling embarrassed. I was not having a good day. My mind reacts in an extreme way when I get hit hard emotionally, due to my mental health condition of Bipolar 1 & ADHD – I swing higher and lower than a ‘normal brain’ would when triggered.
Because I have established a regular routine to my daily practice, including gratitude journaling, I’ve helped my mind ‘step out’ of self pity moments much quicker than I used to. Just give me an hour, and I can reset my mind back ‘to normal’. Prior to implementing a daily routine and an emotional ‘rescue kit‘ into my everyday life, I used to dwell all day, sometimes multiple days in a row, all consumed by negative feelings of paranoia and despair, hating myself for how I felt, what I said, or what I did. It’s a notable difference, even those close to me notice how I am able to ‘bounce back’ much quicker and let things go.
It’s easy to ‘wallow’… it’s human nature to FEEL our emotions, have opinions, and critique the state of the world.
But how do we use our emotions for good, even on the really hard days?
Below are 5 ways you can practice gratitude for healing your mind:
1) Reach out to someone you know struggles in the same way you do.
How meaningful is it for you to hear a response “I understand” from someone you KNOW gets it, verses “I understand” from someone who seems to always have a perfect life with no drama?
Imagine how it would feel for your friend, to hear from you [while you’re struggling too] to hear “I totally understand” – and they FEEL your raw and very real and honest emotions?
It’s not always obvious in the moment, in the heat of your hurt feelings to realize how your ‘dark feelings’ could be healing for someone who is feeling on the edge in life. Look at your emotions as a gift, which enables you to help others who are also struggling.
Use your GIFT of intense emotions, reach out IN THAT MOMENT – don’t wait, and offer to listen to someone you know who also struggles. Text or call them and ask “how are you feeling today?”
If you don’t have a person to call in these moments, please join the private Be Kind Minds Facebook group. That’s exactly why I created it; to give you a safe place to discover you’re not alone and to connect with others you can lean on.
2) Text a friend, or loved one, a note of thanks…
For example: “Thank you for what you said the other day…” or “I appreciate the way you…”
3) Offer to help a friend with a life goal.
Offer to help them with something you know is important to them, but they seem to struggle to make progress on.
4) Wash the dishes, or do a small cleaning project for your spouse or roommate.
Sometimes those tedious tasks are the hardest to do, and doing something that nobody wants to do can be a gesture of “I care”, and shows that you’re grateful for what you have in life.
5) The book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman is a great way to learn how those friends and loved ones in your life interpret meaningful gestures of love…
One way that some give and/or receive love is through gifts. The other day when I was having very hard day, an ‘angel friend’ of mine surprised me with a gift bag full of bath goodies (I LOVE baths!). Epsom Salt, Bubble Bath, Chocolates, even a gift for my dog Henry! That gesture of love was enough to fill me with so much love and gratitude, there was NO room left for negative feelings! It’s an amazing feeling to feel thought of. “Thinking of you” gifts are so meaningful.
What is your love language? Take the quiz here…
One Small Step…
I know it’s hard to step out of a dark headspace, but it’s exactly the first thing we need to do on the difficult emotional days. I hope my list above can spark an idea of what you feel you could do today, tomorrow, and the following days thereafter. No matter what kind of day it is, there is always a moment we can reserve for expressing a note of gratitude. 🙂
Please share this article with your friends if you find it helpful! 💚