Cultivating Gratitude For Stress Relief
Published on November 28th, 2022
Updated on October 1st, 2023
Have you ever wondered, “What is gratitude?” or “Why is it so difficult to show gratitude?” Believe it or not, this is a concept many people struggle with every day. Some think that gratitude is a sign of weakness. Others feel there is no need to show gratitude to someone for doing something that should be done anyway.
Many people who struggle with gratitude have a preoccupation with themselves and a sense of entitlement. They feel like they are owed something by others. This causes little motivation to feel thankful. Gratitude is a concept of awareness that forces the individual to look internally and reflect.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation for spreading kindness. Positive psychology studies the strengths that enable people and communities to thrive. It educates us about the influences of gratitude. Gratitude can improve health and increase positive emotions. It can also strengthen coping skills and help build solid relationships.
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It is not only an emotion but an action as well, and it can be contagious. Some ways to show gratitude include:
- Send an appreciation note to a colleague to remind them of their value.
- Give someone flowers to brighten their day.
- Express appreciation for something someone did for you.
- Tell someone who has helped you how their help made a difference in your life.
- Keep a meeting short to show coworkers that you appreciate and respect their time.
- Give yourself time to enjoy a hobby you are sometimes too busy to do.
Note: Yes, showing gratitude to yourself is essential.
Stress is something everyone is all too familiar with. It is a normal reaction the body has when responding to any emotional or physical tension. Many variables can cause this bodily reaction, such as work or school pressures, life changes, or a traumatic event. Putting gratitude into practice can help alleviate the daily stressors of life.
Stress causes emotional, physical, and psychological tension. Recognizing these signs is vital to using gratitude as a stress reliever. Some signs and symptoms of stress are:
- Anxiety or depression
- Anger, restlessness, or irritability
- Bad decision making
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irregular sleeping
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Poor memory or concentration
- Racing thoughts or worry
Benefits of Gratitude
- Improved Health – People who practice gratitude regularly tend to be in better health than those who do not. They may have fewer aches and pains, exercise regularly, and make regular doctor appointments and check-ups. These factors can lead to a healthier life and longevity.
- Increased Positive Emotions – Focusing on the positives in life causes internal happiness. This type of happiness provides empathy toward others, prosocial behavior, and significantly reduced feelings of envy and resentment toward others. Gratitude brings out good feelings all around.
- Stronger Coping Skills – Gratitude can help with overcoming stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. The ability to decrease stress, handle challenging emotions, and maintain internal harmony is the ultimate goal of being mentally healthy. Authentic appreciation fosters resiliency and can help reduce challenges related to mood disorders and suicidal ideation.
- Solid Relationships – Showing appreciation, such as thanking a stranger for opening the door, can foster new friendships. Gratitude gives the effect of trustworthiness, socialization, and appreciation of others. Expressing gratitude to significant others and loved ones can also improve the quality of these relationships by making all parties feel important and accepted, making the relationships better overall.
Steps to Minimize Stress with Gratitude
Step 1: Admit there is a problem.
Recognizing the feelings of stress can sometimes be tricky. If any of the signs or symptoms of stress are experienced, then it has become an ailing part of life. There are several options for coping when feeling stressed, such as asking others for help, distancing yourself from the source of the stress, and more. The ultimate goal is to adjust to or tolerate stress until the situation changes. Gratitude is one of the best coping skills for dealing with daily life stressors.
Step 2: Catharsis.
Catharsis, or the process of releasing strong emotions, is extremely beneficial following an upsetting event. Crying is not the only method of cathartic release; letting go of guilt, anger, or overcoming fear are cathartic releases as well. The goal is for gratitude to serve as an agent of catharsis, in which all parties feel better.
Example: An example of catharsis can start with stress from feeling guilty for failing to meet an agreement with someone. In this example, a commitment is made, but the failure to meet the obligation has caused guilt and stress. Expressing gratitude to the person who was let down in an attempt to make amends can release the guilt. This act of gratitude is meant to show appreciation despite the failed agreement.
Step 3: Pay it Forward.
Doing for others has a huge positive impact on mental health and can be contagious. If someone performs a gracious act for you, pay it forward by performing a gracious act for someone else. Expressing gratitude by giving to others the way that you have been given can reduce stress and improve mental health.
Life is filled with so many ups and downs; stress is inevitable. However, stress does not have to consume your life. The best way to deal with life’s obstacles is to acknowledge the greatness of life. In a state of gratitude, life is affirmed as good and worth living. Gratitude for what you have and the life you are building for yourself can put any obstacle into a new perspective.
Learning to practice gratitude can be challenging for some. If this is the obstacle causing stress in your life, reach out to counselors trained to help with gratitude practices to begin your wellness journey.