Written by: Khloe Mace
Editor’s Note: The following articles are written by counseling professionals from Counseling Services in partnership with the Southern Accent.
Thanksgiving is a special time when people focus on being grateful. It is a time when many people feel happier and experience a positive mood. Although we might be tempted to practice thankfulness only during the fall season, gratitude is actually good for us all year long. Being grateful has proven benefits for our mental health, including better sleep, less stress and depression and improved relationships.
When you feel thankful for something, it can help lower your stress and anxiety. Just thinking about what you’re grateful for can make you 10% happier overall and reduce feelings of depression by 35%, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
Experts from Mental Health First Aid say that practicing gratitude is like a shield for your mental well-being. It protects you from feeling too anxious or sad, which is very helpful. Being thankful should not be limited to just Thanksgiving; it is something you can do throughout the year to improve your mental health. It provides a little boost of happiness that can last for up to six months, according to an article on the Mental Health First Aid website.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness conducted a study in 2021 and found that people who are aware of their blessings and regularly practice gratitude are generally happier and less depressed. They also sleep better, have lower stress and get along better with others. The best part is that you do not have to wait too long to see the effects. Practicing gratitude can start making a positive difference in your life in just a couple of weeks, according to an article on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.
The ADAA suggests that we try to make gratitude a mental habit. Worrying, overthinking and negativity are common mental habits that produce bad outcomes. The ADAA’s research shows that simply replacing these negative thoughts with gratitude can combat their effects.
However, we have to be cautious about making gratitude a habit in our minds. Sometimes, it can go wrong and lead us back to negative thoughts. If we force ourselves to be grateful just because we feel guilty for being upset, it can actually harm our mental health. We should never use gratitude as a way to downplay or ignore our painful experiences. It is essential to acknowledge and process our feelings honestly, according to an article on the ADAA website.
Being grateful can bring us joy, reduce stress and make our relationships with others even better. So, let’s remember to be thankful not only during Thanksgiving but throughout the year. It is a simple yet powerful way to take care of our mental well-being.