As I sat at my computer trying to figure out what to write about, one of my favorite TikTok people, went live. I love him because he is so incredibly positive, he plays these cool instruments called handpans and plays them outside in some beautiful locations. He has dreadlocks and a long beard turning grey. The locations he picks to play are so beautiful, between that and his music, I can feel the tension leave my body and many times I will fall asleep to his music. As I listened to him speak, he was talking about being grateful. He started his social media pages to share his music with the world and it has brought him so many gifts. So, he asked his followers what were we grateful for?
It hit home for me, as I had been in a bad mood all day. The week was busy with working, in training and then getting my backyard prepped for my gardens. I had wanted to get the back and front yards completed and prepped to plant over the next two weeks and was very disappointed and irritated that I was unable to accomplish this goal. However, when one of my favorite TikTok creators asked what was I grateful for it made me pause. I looked around my home, my dogs, my mostly completed backyard, the food I was cooking for meal preps for the week, I had visited with my brother and sister-in-law for a few hours and I was texting with a good friend. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and thought “Okay woman get it together.” I grabbed a pen and piece of paper and started writing what I was grateful for. By the time I was done I had a full page, and more importantly my bad mood was gone, I felt lighter in my heart and my body was relaxed.
What is gratitude? By Webster’s definition is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. I always have liked the definition of when a person may not have much, and yet feel as if they do, that is being grateful. When I was younger, I took an exchange student from Italy to the grocery store and they goggled at the number of choices we have in our grocery stores. They were just blown away. I just shrugged and laughed it off. I had forgotten about this situation until I went to a local grocery store earlier in the year and couldn’t find something, I checked back several times and the store would tell me they had no idea when it would be back in stock. Friends and family on social media were complaining about their favorite foods not being easily assessable, and it reminded me of the exchange student. That’s when I realized how spoiled we Americans are with so many choices and the ability to complain when we don’t have access. I stopped complaining and started finding alternative things to buy. I chose in that moment to be very grateful that I lived here and all the different choices I have when I shop.
One of the things I always ask my clients to do is different gratitude exercises. I tend to get eye rolls, heavy sighs and “are you serious?” I always smile and say “Yes I am and trust me this will help.” There have been studies done that show changes in our brains when we can show our gratitude, it helps release different hormones in our brains that can improve our mood. Some studies have even shown that showing gratitude and seeking counseling will help improve your mood and mental health. How it does this science isn’t completely sure as of yet.
Some ways that gratitude can help is that it let’s go of our toxic emotions. Some examples of toxic emotions are anger, frustration, fear, guilt, bitterness, resentment, and sadness because they negatively impact us. The example I gave above about earlier in the day, I was feeling resentment and frustration, after writing out my gratitude I felt 100% better. Does this mean it’s going to work perfectly every time? Of course not, however, if I can feel better the majority of the time after writing my gratitude when my toxic emotions are present, I’m certainly going to write them down.
Writing a gratitude letter to someone, even if you don’t send it to them, can also improve your mood and take away those toxic emotions that we all feel at times. Writing gratitude isn’t necessarily going to help immediately all of the time, it can take days to feel the effects, especially if your depression or anxiety is really high. An assignment I gave to my client’s when I worked at a thirty-day rehabilitation facility was to have them write three things that they are grateful for that happened in the past twenty-four hours. This assignment is to recognize those little things we tend to take for granted. For example. did you see a rainbow after a rainstorm? See a lizard? A beautiful bird? Maybe someone you haven’t spoken to called or sent you a text? They would have to do this daily, so many of my clients would come back to me as they were discharging and mention how they hated doing the assignment when I first gave it to them, it wasn’t until they were getting ready to leave did, they realize they had started to notice the small things in our world that make it so beautiful. One client even told me that it gave them the courage to “talk” to their anxiety and tell it to go away.
Our world is incredibly fast and our American culture makes it even faster with our on-the-go mentality. Taking a few minutes out of your day to write down your gratitude’s, think about them or even say them aloud can help improve your mood and change the way you think. If you would like help with working on ways to show more gratitude, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.