It’s clear from studies and research that there are many psychological benefits of gratitude. Simply by feeling more thankful for the things that you have and experience every day, you can improve your mental well-being. You can also enjoy a better psychological well-being.
Around a quarter of the population will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime. Depression is one of the most common and it can be seriously debilitating.
Getting professional help to treat depression can be costly and difficult. Finding the right treatment can be difficult, and often, medication doesn’t work. However, gratitude is a simple skill to practice and it reduces depression. It is also less time-consuming, more affordable and more convenient than many traditional therapies.
Depression is a condition that has a neurochemical and psychological base. Gratitude can help both of these issues. Gratitude refocusses your attention from problems to their solutions. It impacts on the neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin that help you to feel good. When those chemicals surge in your brain, you feel more motivated and less apathetic, helping to reduce your depression.
Gratitude reduces stress hormones and helps to manage the functions of the autonomic nervous system, thus reducing the unwanted symptoms associated with depression. Feelings of thankfulness, at a neurochemical level, are linked to increased neural modulation in the prefrontal part of the brain. That part is responsible for handling negative emotions such as shame and guilt. As a result, depression sufferers become more positive and happier as their brain learns how to cope with negativity in a different way.
In fact, gratitude is so powerful that it can even change the brain’s neural structures, making depression sufferers feel more content and happy. Appreciating others and feeling grateful helps to trigger the release of good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. It also helps to regulate the immune system’s function. Scientists have even gone so far as to suggest that by activating the brain’s reward center, it can change how we view ourselves and the world around us.
Being thankful forces you to focus on the positives. When you practice gratitude, your brain redirects automatically to focus on the things that you do have rather than the things that you don’t. This helps us to be more aware of the here and now and to develop a more grounded attitude.
Stress is a common feature of everyday life these days. We have stressful jobs with more pressure on us in our family life than ever before. In addition, we have less time to get everything done. It’s no wonder, then, that so many people find it so difficult to cope.
There are many studies into stress and gratitude and the results have been very interesting. Participants in those studies showed a significant reduction in their stress hormone (cortisol) levels when feeling grateful. They were also more resilient to negative experiences and emotional setbacks.
Gratitude helps us to handle stress more effectively. By simply appreciating and acknowledging the small positives in life, it’s possible to rewire your brain so that it learns how to deal with your circumstances with increased awareness and better perception.
Stress is a natural bodily response to change, both bad and good. Positive stress (known as eustress) makes us feel happy. Meanwhile, unforeseen problems trigger distress or negative stress. Gratitude releases your stress hormones effectively while boosting positive emotions such as happiness. If you commit to practicing gratitude on a daily basis, you can reduce your negative emotions, naturally detoxing your body and mind from stress.
Of course, gratitude won’t bring immediate relief to those suffering from stress. In addition, practicing it won’t mean you’ll suddenly be overjoyed. Gratitude merely helps you to accept your feelings then work on how to make them less overpowering. This is how, over time, you learn to combat stress and cope with it more effectively.
Many people suffer from low self-esteem that impacts on every area of their lives. With poor self-esteem, other mental health problems can soon follow. Depression and anxiety can become crippling, and it can become difficult to relate to other people in a social setting. As a result, sufferers become more isolated which only exacerbates the problem.
Yet, gratitude has been shown in studies to make people friendlier and kinder, and when someone is kind and friendly, they are more likely to attract positive people to them and receive help from them.
Gratitude also increases your ability to spot kindness in others. For example, if you suffer from poor self-esteem, you may well look at a kind act skeptically, believing that the other person is only being kind to get something back in return. Someone who is grateful, on the other hand, will be able to accept that kindness for its face value since they would believe that they were worthy to receive kindness.
At the end of the day, practicing gratitude helps you to work towards feeling good about yourself. When you think good thoughts and appreciate other people and their actions, you feel positive about yourself. In addition, those who are on the receiving end of your thankfulness also feel good. It’s a positive feedback loop that’s good for all parties involved.
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