How Gratitude Impacts Emotional & Mental Health

Emotional and Mental Health not only improve moods and increase happiness, but research shows all other areas of one’s life!

How Gratitude Impacts Emotional and Mental Health

Photo on 2015-05-07 at 10.45 AM #4When things don’t seem to be going right, it’s really hard to be thankful. But what if being thankful helped make things seem like they were going better than you thought?

Emotional and Mental Health not only improve moods and increase happiness but research shows all other areas of one’s life. What research is also showing is that gratitude is one of the most proven methods of improving ones mood and outlook on life. Here’s a bit of a deeper look into this easy and impressive practice as it relates to these two areas of well-being.

It has been known for some time now that negative thoughts and general complaining don’t make us feel positive. This statement seems relatively obvious but most people don’t realize just how impactful the words they use are, whether these words are being used inside their heads or that are leaving their lips. Words dictate feelings, beliefs and thoughts about the world, yourself and others. Negative thoughts and word may in some situations help us process stressful events or difficult emotions but the reason positive psychology is becoming so important in the field of mental health and well-being is because of the evidence shown that positive thoughts can transform your brains hardwiring, and as a result, your life.

Sonja Lyubomirsky and other scientists studying happiness have proven that gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction. Not only does research into gratitude show that this practice cultivates positive thoughts, but those who practice gratitude regularly experience more happiness, more consistently and more intensely. This boost in feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure and enthusiasm then transfer into other areas of  life including relationships, job performance and physical health.

Let’s also look at gratitude and it’s impact on mental and emotional health from a neurological perspective. Every thought has a neural residue, meaning that every time you have a thought about yourself, an event, a person or any other stimuli in your environment, your brain is storing this thought. Even more, there is compound interest. So if you have a negative thought about your appearance and day after day you continue to have that thought you are not only adding to your brains makeup of how you view your appearance, but you are strengthening that neural pathway making that belief stronger. The wonderful thing is that this happens when we have positive thoughts as well! Practising gratitude helps to strengthen the neural pathways that encourage a positive response and an ability to search for what to be thankful for when challenging situations arise.

Perhaps this is also why it has been shown that by practicing gratitude both cognition and clarity of mental functioning is also improved. I mean, I feel a lot more focused and on my mental game when I’m full of optimism and positive thoughts, versus negative ones. If you want to remember those really positive experiences that bring back feelings of joy and contentment, you can also attach feelings of gratitude to them, which has been shown to make them easier for people to remember.  If you take a moment now and think back on some meaningful and enjoyable moments in your life that you remember more vividly and more often it’s likely you will also get a nice dose of gratitude as well.

Because gratitude also encourages you to look outside of yourself, to the people in your life that are to be appreciative for, you also begin to feel less isolated and see your connection to world around you, which you are very much a part of. This is paramount when it comes to working through depression and anxiety, which are common place in our society today. A positive frame of mind, which gratitude provides, also allows you to see possibilities, something that depression often prevents us from seeing. 

But gratitude isn’t just about focusing on positive experiences, it’s also just as important to help us process some of the most difficult times in our lives. Life is full of loss, pain and tragedy and gratitude isn’t about covering that up and believing everything in life is good. But, everything is life does offer insight, experience and something to be grateful. Even if sometimes it’s just that you got through it and came out the other side.

So now you’re thinking maybe there might be something to this gratitude thing and that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a little boost in your emotional and mental well-being, now what?

Here are 5 Simple Ways to Start Practicing Gratitude to Improve Your Emotional and Mental Health or you can watch a previously recorded webinar here titled How Gratitude Can Change Your Life