Being Thankful For Your Mind

How gratitude works to improve your mental health

When it comes to wellness, Greenwich is practically its own hub of self-care. From boutique fitness studios and luxury salons and spas to flower shops and highly curated shopping destinations, we are surrounded by not only uplifting businesses that benefit our health and wellbeing, but amazing people who make up the backbone of this incredible community. 

As November is a month notorious for thankfulness, I wanted to shed light on the importance that practicing gratitude holds, and provide some ways you can enhance your gratitude game if you’ve been out of practice for a while.

Adopting new habits takes time. Consistency and self-discipline will make all the difference between sticking to a healthy habit or letting it fall to the wayside. When our to-do lists seem never-ending — keeping up with work deadlines, taking care of our families, heading to doctor’s appointments — on top of maintaining relationships with our spouses, friends and kids — our day-to-day responsibilities seem much more manageable when we are grounded in gratitude.

You’ve heard all of the buzzy wellness trends (and have probably tried them, too) like meditating, journaling, cold-plunging, sleep syncing, and mindful drinking and eating, which barely scratches the surface of the enhanced well-being regime, but there is a stark difference between doing what works for you, and keeping up with the wellness Joneses, so to speak.

I have personally found gratitude to be a life-saver in terms of my mood and outlook on life, in particular to improving my mental health. The question is, how do we keep up with a gratitude routine in a way that feels attainable?

According to Harvard Health, “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Through their extensive research on gratitude, psychologists associated with Harvard Health have concluded that “gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met.” Gratitude, they affirm, helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.

Considering ways to cultivate a strong sense of gratitude, people can do a plethora of things including:

  • Writing a thank-you note to someone. Experts suggest making a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month, and even writing one to yourself once in awhile. This can be anyone from a close friend or relative to someone you just met who touched your life in an unexpected way. 

  • Count your blessings: Take a moment each day to think about all of the good that’s surrounding you. Your loving family, your beautiful home, your health. I like to write a few things down each morning that are currently bringing me joy and that I am thankful for, like my health, my kids, my supportive husband, and my job. These can be as small as appreciating the scent of a fresh bouquet of flowers on your kitchen table or the warmth of your cozy bathrobe, or they can be more meaningful like the fact that you are alive and well.

  • Remind yourself often that you are lucky, no matter what situation you may find yourself in. I always think back to the saying, “When you’re feeling helpless, find a way to be helpful.” It’s easy to get stuck in a negative self-loathing spiral when things don’t seem to be going your way. You woke up late, your flight got canceled, you forgot about an important meeting, etc. When you take time to remember that the world we live in is vast, and that you and your “problems” are not the center of the universe, it’s much easier to feel thankful for who you are and what you have. Like the other old saying goes, “Someone else has it far worse than you do.” Keep that in mind the next time life throws something unexpected your way.

  • Make it a habit to do one act of kindness every day: An act of kindness, no matter how big or small, can have a significant impact on both others and yourself. That’s the thing about gratitude and spreading positivity in general — you feel better when you make someone else feel better. Maybe a friend is going through a tough time. Maybe a parent was just diagnosed with a medical issue. Whether you’re offering your neighbor a cup of sugar or helping the librarian clean up the cup of coffee she just spilled, know that you’re making a difference.

  • Cook with love: You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to share a home cooked meal with a friend in need. While meal trains for new mothers or sick persons are great, there is no rule saying you can’t make your neighbor or friend a nice meal just because. There’s a difference between cooking to eat and cooking with love. Try and incorporate sharing a meal with someone you care about as a way of showing gratitude.

  • Thank the people in your community who help you. Like the bus driver who brings your children home, or the dry cleaner who takes excellent care of your clothes. Genuine thank-yous and smiles are a simple and effective way of practicing gratitude, and again, it makes both yourself and the people you are thanking feel great.

These are just a few suggestions that can help you get into a good gratitude groove. Once you get into the habit of a thankfulness routine that works for you, it will feel as simple and mindless as brushing your teeth each morning.

The Greenwich community is filled with resources and wonderful people who are more than happy to assist us on our wellbeing journey. It’s up to us to keep the conversation, and positive interactions, going.

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