Gratitude Helps Minimize Feelings Of Stress
Have you ever wondered, “What is gratitude?” or “Why is it so difficult to show gratitude?” Believe it or not, this is a concept that many people struggle with every day. Some think that gratitude is a sign of weakness. Others feel that there is no need to show gratitude to someone for doing something that should be done anyway. Many who struggle with gratitude have a preoccupation with self and have a sense of entitlement (a feeling he/she is owed something from others) and hence have no 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, and the return of kindness. Positive psychology, the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive, educates us about the influences of gratitude. Research has shown that gratitude can improve health, increase positive emotions, strengthen coping skills, and build solid relationships.
Gratitude is not only an emotion but an action as well. Also, gratitude can be contagious. Examples of gratitude are:
- Sending an appreciation note to a colleague to remind him/her of his/her value.
- Giving someone flowers to brighten his/her day.
- Sharing a specific example of something they did for you and how it made a difference in your life.
- Running a meeting and keeping it short to show them you appreciate and respect their time.
- Giving yourself time to enjoy a passion you’re sometimes too busy to fit in (Yes, showing gratitude to yourself is important).
Benefits of Gratitude
- Improved Health – Individuals who practice gratitude regularly tend to be in better health than those who don’t. They have fewer aches and pains, tend to exercise regularly and make regular doctor appointments/check-ups. These factors can lead to a longer life and longevity.
- Increased Positive Emotions – Focusing on the positives in life causes internal happiness. This type of happiness provides empathy towards others, prosocial behavior, and significantly reduced feelings of envy and revenge towards others. Gratitude brings out good feelings all around.
- Strengthen Coping Skills – Gratitude can be vital to overcoming 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 reduction in mood disorders and suicidal ideations.
- Build 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 improve the quality of these relationships by making all parties feel good and accepted, making the relationships better overall.
Stress is something everyone is all too familiar with. Stress 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. Gratitude put into practice can help alleviate the daily stressors of life.
Stress causes emotional, physical, and psychological signs of distress. 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
Minimizing Stress with Gratitude
The first step in any situation is admitting there is a problem. Recognizing the feelings of being stressed can sometimes be tricky. If any of the signs or symptoms discussed above are experienced, then stress has become an ailing part of life. There are several options for coping when feeling stressed, such as asking others for help, distancing themselves 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.
The next step is catharsis or the process of releasing strong emotions. Catharsis is extremely beneficial following a traumatic 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 in the end. An example is a stress from feeling guilty for failing to meet an agreement with someone.
In the above 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 in spite of the failed agreement.
The last step is reciprocity or the exchanging of actions and positive emotions. This can also mean paying it forward. Research has shown that doing for others has a huge positive impact on mental health. Performing an act of gratitude toward someone, in turn, that person pays it forward by doing something gracious in return or for another; this results in stress being reduced and mental health improved.
Life is filled with so many ups and downs; stress is inevitable. However, stress does not have to consume one’s life.
The best way to deal with life obstacles is to acknowledge the greatness of life. In the state of gratitude, life is affirmed as good and worth living. Gratitude for what you have and the life given to you can put any obstacle into a new perspective. Admittedly, learning to practice gratitude can be challenging. In the event that this is the obstacle causing stress in your life, reach out to counselors trained to help with gratitude to begin your wellness journey.