Having a positive attitude is a great way to face life every day, but if you do not know how to embrace and practice gratitude, you may still be unhappy. In the busy world we live in, it can be very difficult to be grateful, especially when we are facing challenges with our relationships, family, finances, or health issues. Many times in counseling, clients will tell me they are optimistic and have a positive attitude, but they still feel unhappy. This is usually a result of a disconnect existing between what they are thinking and feeling. To be happy and healthy regardless of life’s circumstances, we must allow ourselves to connect our thoughts with emotions and spiritual beliefs. Try these four easy ways to practice embracing gratitude every day. Then notice how you start feeling calmer and happier even when your circumstances stay the same.
Be Thankful Two Times a Day: When gratitude is at the beginning and end of your day – every day will be a good one. Two things will happen to every person every day…we wake up and we go to sleep. How we start and end our day is essential to our state of happiness. Regardless of what time we get up or go to sleep, most of us have some kind of routine like taking a shower and getting dressed in the morning or getting our bed clothes on and saying “good night” to our loved ones in the evening. Although we can’t always control how our day will go, we can always find something to be grateful for. Metal health experts suggest that expressing gratitude can be a great way to start and end your day in a way that nurtures our mental and emotional wellbeing. Try making it a habit during your morning and evening routine to express gratitude out loud and notice how different your days are!
Be Specific in Your Gratitude: Be sure to be specific when you are acknowledging what you are thankful for. Try saying both what you THINK and how you FEEL. This allows the brain to think specifically and connect with a feeling emotionally so you are more likely to be positively impacted for overall wellbeing. For example, don’t just say, “I am thankful to be healthy”, but think about what being healthy means for you. Instead, say, “I am so thankful that I can see the beautiful colors of the clothes I am wearing today, because wearing this outfit makes me feel pretty”, or, “I am so thankful I can ride bikes with my daughter today after school because I feel happy when we spend time together riding bikes.”
Share Your Gratitude: Text, email, tweet, facebook, or call someone and share your specific thoughts and feelings of gratitude with other people. Try it…it only takes a few minutes to share what you are thankful for with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, store clerks, waiters, or whoever you have an opportunity to connect with. This is a way to “pay it forward”…sharing your gratitude with others will be a blessing to you and them. Multiple research studies have shown that sharing gratitude strengthens marriages and improves your health.
Include Your Faith: Whether you are embracing gratitude or sharing it, include your faith practices with your thoughts and feelings. For example, if you are a Christian, you may want to include thanking the Lord through the practice of prayer, or reading a scripture each morning for inspiration, or sharing a testimony in church. Research studies support the idea that including whatever faith you practice into your daily gratitude routine will strengthen your overall mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
Sometimes in life we just can’t find reasons to be grateful. If you find yourself struggling to be grateful, feel overwhelmed at the end of every day, or have had significant changes in your life – you may benefit from talking with a counselor who can help you work through your struggles to develop and maintain strong mental and emotional wellbeing.
When is the last time you scheduled a Mental Health Check-up?
We all have a doctor we see regularly for annual physicals and those colds and minor illnesses that come up throughout the year. We religiously schedule our teeth cleaning appointments with the dentist. Women schedule annual gynecological exams, some people see a chiropractor on a regular basis, and many go to church weekly to nurture our soul. We know research has shown that taking care of our mental health is as essential as taking care of our physical and spiritual health. But, how often do we schedule regular mental health check-ups?
There are 3 reasons why is it important to schedule regular Mental Health Check-ups with a professional counselor…
1. The Present: To address any current issues you are facing.
2. The Past: To determine if you have any unresolved issues from the past that are causing you disturbance in your current life.
3. The Future: To develop effective life management skills to help you daily live the life you desire.
Once you are “healthy” mentally, checking in with your counselor on a regular basis helps address whatever issues may arise so that you maintain strong mental health throughout your lifespan. In addition to physical health improvement, research has shown that nurturing our mental health leads to maintaining healthy relationships with intimate partners, family members and friends.
Along with Mental Health Check-ups…
There are 5 Essential Ways to achieve and maintain strong Mental Health:
1. Practice Good Self-Care – practicing good self-care is the most important step to mental wellness. This involves, eating well, regular exercise, 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and using relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing to reduce stress.
2. Build a Support System – people need people. We all need to have relationships with people who are safe and with whom we can share our life’s journey. Our support system can consist of our partner, family members or friends.
3. Resolve the Unresolved – most mental and emotional distress comes from unresolved issues. These issues may stem from abuse, a lack of problem solving skills, or circumstances out of our control, but they must be resolved or they will affect our current and future mental well-being.
4. Nurture your Spiritual Beliefs – spiritual beliefs give us a sense of purpose, are usually the basis for our value system, and often give us hope and strength throughout our life’s journey so it is important to nurture our spirituality.
5. Laugh – studies have shown that laughing decreases pain, stress hormones, and anxiety. It also helps increase blood flow to promote heart health. Learning to laugh at yourself by not taking yourself so seriously and enjoying a good laugh with other people on a regular basis will also increase your relational bonds.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
Dr. Crystal Hollenbeck is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and specializes in relationships, trauma recovery, and anxiety management. Please call or text Dr. Hollenbeck at 407.408.6521 for a mental health check up.