The power of gratitude

The last year and a bit have been really tough on all of us. Sadness, anxiety, and depression have become even more prevalent - as well as our awareness of them. A lot of the time we only focus on the negative things and seem to forget all about the positives, but sometimes the positive things can be harder to find when we are consumed with stress, anxiety and sadness. According to psychology research, gratitude is positively and continually linked with greater happiness in life. As stated by the Harvard Health Publishing website of Harvard Medical School, gratitude helps people experience more positive emotions, relish and reminisce about great memories and experiences, improve health, cope with adversity, and develop stronger relationships with those they surround themselves with.

The two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness. Emmons, 2010

Expressing gratitude is something I have been trying to do more of in the past year and there are so many ways to do it! This includes applying it to things from the past, present or future. The past, where I reminisce on good memories, and am appreciative of the things in my childhood. The present, where I try not to take success for granted when it comes. And the future, by remaining hopeful and optimistic about what could or will happen.

Whatever your current level of gratitude is now, it can be developed over time with simple practices:

Keep a journal: Set some time for yourself and make it a habit to write down your thoughts, feelings, and whatever you’re grateful for! This can be an easy and effective way to express yourself and can be done daily, weekly, or even monthly.

Pray or Meditate: Cultivating your gratitude through prayer if you are a religious person can be like talking to someone about your feelings with a lot less pressure and without the fear of judgment. The same goes for meditation, which focuses on the present and is a great way to relieve stress and anxiousness and help you to concentrate on the things you are thankful for. YouTube has an unlimited number of videos for mindfulness meditation, as well as many apps like Headspace, Calm and Breethe.

Tell someone you are grateful for them: Whether it’s your mum or dad, any other member of your family, or your friends, expressing your thankfulness to them can not only be beneficial to you when you realise what that person has done for you, big or small, hearing that can help them feel acknowledge and loved. If you aren’t ready to tell them this in person, thank them mentally until you are.

Count your blessings: Quite literally count, maybe 3 to 5 things a day for what you are grateful for, even if they are the same every day. This can be written down or just in your head at the end of the day.

Remember the hard times: It’s helpful to remember when times weren’t so great, it can help you see how far you’ve come and how many times you have been able to get back up on your feet faster and stronger each time.

Make use of visual reminders: Visual reminders can be used as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. This can be by looking back on old photos of family and friends and remembering those moments. You can even write little notes for yourself and stick them in different places, on your desk, on your wall or mirror, inside books and textbooks.

Make a vow: Make a vow or promise to yourself to be aware of gratitude and express it, by writing it down or telling someone. And use positive language!

Gratitude is a great method for people to be able to respect and treasure what they have instead of constantly looking for something new to make them happy or complete. It can help you focus on what you have, a roof over your head, food on the table, loving and supportive family and/or friends, education, or job, etc, etc, etc. Whatever it is, refocusing your thoughts from what you may lack to what you have at that moment can really help your mental state. It may be hard at first and difficult to keep up, but exposing yourself to these practices slowly and with hope, whether you see it or not, there will be an improvement over time.

Be grateful! Keep it up! You’ve got this!



Tagged in Student health, Wellbeing, health and wellbeing, mental health, working from home, Student life, gratitude, life, resilience, What messes with your head