How an Attitude of Gratitude Can Help Reduce Stress
Dec 7, 2020
Angeline Sheets
gratitude journal on white table with pen, peonies

You may be feeling exhausted or burned out due to the impacts of COVID-19, the climate of social unrest, and the holidays. These stressors may also cause you to feel sad or worried. Taken one by one, these events are almost unbearable but taken all together; it can feel very overwhelming.

The world may seem unsteady now, but we can steady ourselves by focusing on things for which we are grateful. If your coping skills have worn down, identifying what you’re thankful for can boost your well-being and strengthen your endurance during this stressful time.

What does it mean to practice gratitude?

Gratitude involves expressing thanks or appreciation for something, from a gift to life itself.

“Take a minute to stop and reflect on what’s in front and available to us and appreciate it, ” says Marianne Svendsen, LMFT at Sutter Health’s, Employee Assistance Program.  “This single moment can have a drastic impact on our well-being. There is evidence to suggest that there are psychological and physical health-related benefits when we practice gratitude. Benefits include improved sleep, increased energy levels and a strengthened immune system to ward off illness.”

“Pause to notice the beauty in small details”, says Svendsen. “The sound of the birds that are chirping outside your window, the swirl of colors in the eyes of the one you love, the smell of pumpkin as you bake or the warmth of a blanket that a friend gave to you, these can help you cope with stress. You can spend one minute each morning and each evening to do this. You can also do this during other parts of your day, such as, while you wash your hands, in between commercials, while you’re on hold during a phone call or waiting for a video conference to begin.”

If you have difficulty identifying something you are grateful for, here are some questions to help spur reflection and find gratitude:

  • What are some ways you’ve changed for the better?
  • What are the moments in your life that taught you big life lessons?
  • What miracles have you witnessed or experienced?
  • What are all the things you can do with your eyes closed?
  • What things make you laugh?
  • What are the reasons you are amazing?
  • What are the things that you cannot live without?
  • What significant issues have you survived in your life?
  • What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
  • What nice things have you done for someone?

How to start practicing gratitude

They are several useful exercises to help you practice gratitude and integrate it into your daily life.

Gratitude journaling

One of the most popular ways to practice gratitude is by journaling. This technique involves keeping a diary of things you’re grateful for each day.

Your don’t need a notebook to do this, You can simply add a note in your phone as a quick and easy way to record something you are grateful for in the moment.

Gratitude jars

This is a fun and simple idea that is easy to put into practice. 

When something good happens or you feel grateful for something, jot it down on a slip of paper and place it in a jar. If you’re feeling down, open your gratitude jar for a reminder of what makes you grateful.

Mental health matters

A recent study showed practicing gratitude regularly can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.  

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, please call the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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