By Megan Drake, LMHC
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”- Anonymous.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness (Oxford University Press, 2021). It holds roots in positive psychology as a tool to improving happiness and overall greater life satisfaction. Gratitude, like all tools in your coping toolbox, is something to be practiced regularly, and according to researchers at Berkeley College, is an asset to the work you are already doing with your counselor.
In a 2015 study by Berkeley College, 300 college students seeking mental health counseling at the university were randomly assigned into three groups. All groups received counseling, one group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts, feelings, and negative experiences, and the third group did not do any writing activity. Researchers found that the participants who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended. This suggests that practicing gratitude in addition to receiving mental health counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief (Brown & Wong, 2017).
Add to the benefits of your counseling by starting with the gratitude practice tips below.
- Say thank you to your body. A negative relationship with the body is a symptom of the Eating Disorder. To build a healthier relationship with your body, instead of criticizing and critiquing the way that it looks take pause to identify what your body does for you every moment of every day. Starting with the eyes, say or write one thing you are grateful for about each part of your body.
- Write a thank you letter to another person. Like the 2015 Berkeley College study, take time to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week. Not only will this exercise improve your positive thinking, but it will also spread kindness to others.
- Keep a gratitude journal. As part of your morning or evening routine, write down at least one thing you are thankful for each day. If you have difficulty getting started, look for gratitude journals that provide writing prompts or sentence stems.
- Be Mindful. Be aware of the present moment. For example, when going for a walk pause to notice the positives, the feeling of the sun on your face or the colors of the blooming flowers. The more that you are present in the moment, the more you will be able to actively turn your mind toward gratitude.
Brown, & Wong. (2017, June 16). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
Oxford University Press. (2021, April 9). Oxford Languages and Google – English | Oxford Languages. Oxford Languages. https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/