GRATITUDE has become a mainstream wellness buzzword in the past decade. and for good reason–research supports the long-touted alternative wellness assertion about the benefits of a gratitude practice to mental AND physical health. whether you’re new to gratitude as a wellness concept or working on your positivity ratio, read on for a (very brief) primer on gratitude.
first, it’s important to emphasize that gratitude is NOT the same as toxic positivity. having gratitude does not mean you need to dismiss feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, worry or despair; it does not mean pretending everything feels ok when it doesn’t. rather, think of gratitude as a mindfulness practice, bringing your awareness to things for which you can feel awe, joy or appreciation. (i even count a shift from an observation of negativity to one of neutral curiosity as a stepping stone in the gratitude department!)
practicing gratitude is a powerful tool for supporting mental health. it can be grounding, which is especially important for those of us who struggle to get out of our minds and into our bodies. this grounding can help us feel competent, worthy, and connected, and improves resilience by reducing feelings of overwhelm and chipping away at hopelessness.
the physical benefits are also many, including improvements to sleep quality and immune strength. importantly, practicing gratitude can activate your parasympathetic nervous system (you might have heard it referred to as the “rest and digest” system), which can lower blood pressure, inflammation, and stress activation responses.
gratitude is frequently referred to as a practice because its effects are cumulative. remember that gratitude is a skill that takes time to master, and that it’s ok to start small! have compassion for yourself as you develop this new skill in your wellness toolkit, and gratitude for the fact that you’re trying!
this picture is one of the things for which i had gratitude yesterday: a lemon tree right outside my back door.