When dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, just the thought of Thanksgiving and Christmas can make one feel overwhelmed, lonely, fearful, and sad. We may feel like we don’t have much to offer others, or maybe our finances are tight and the pressure to give gifts is weighing on us. Maybe time with family is more stressful than it is enjoyable.
So what is one to do? How can someone that already feels anxious about the holidays, or is dealing with depression actually enjoy this time of year? It may sound too simple to be effective, but the science backs it – An attitude of gratitude can bring great results.
According to a research study at Harvard Medical School, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. In conducting the study, the researchers divided the subjects into three groups. The first group was instructed to write about things they were grateful for that had happened during the week. The second group was asked to write about things that had irritated and displeased them during the week. And the third group was asked to write about events that had happened, with no real emphasis on it being positive or negative.
The results of the study showed that after 10 weeks, the members of the group that wrote about gratitude were significantly more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than the participants in the other two groups.
This is just the result of one research study, but a quick google search will show, again and again, evidence that gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. It works, it really does.
A good way to start increasing your feelings of gratitude is to start making a gratitude list.
Simply writing down 5 things a day that you are grateful for, can cause a positive shift in your thinking and ultimately in your life.
It can be anything. You can be grateful for your dog, your lunch, getting to work on time, having a job to get to on time, access to mental health care, etc.
Try doing this daily and see what happens. The results might not be immediate, but just know that with daily practice, you will see a shift in your sense of happiness, thankfulness, and feelings of well-being. Yes, it takes time, but it’s well worth the tiny bit of effort.
Though gratitude has amazing benefits for our mental health, it is important to note, that being grateful alone, isn’t going to cure mental illness. However, when combined with proper treatment, it can definitely enhance your recovery and as a result, change your life.
So this holiday season, rather than focusing on the things that you don’t have, or the things that you wish were different, try focusing on the things that you are thankful for.
Start small, and watch as your attitude of gratitude helps you to become a happier, healthier, and more grateful human being.
For more information on the benefits of gratitude, you can check out the following link: