The holiday season can be a happy, exciting, and stressful time of year. But there’s one habit shown to change you and your brain for the better. GRATITUDE. It’s already been shown to help well-functioning people, but can it help those struggling with mental health?
The Study Into Gratitude for Those with Mental Health Concerns
One study involved participants just before they attended their first counseling session and reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time.
The study broke participants into three groups (all received counseling services as well during the study). Group one was instructed to write a gratitude letter to another person every week for three weeks. Group two wrote about negative experiences. And group three did not do any writing.
For those writing a gratitude letter, they reported “significantly better mental health” than those in the other groups. Gratitude writing can be a boon to those with and without mental health concerns—especially when coupled with psychological counseling.
Additional Insights About Practicing Gratitude
There are other psychological benefits behind being grateful.
Gratitude writing can help shift attention from toxic emotions and avoid dwelling on negative feelings. And even if you don’t share your gratitude letter with someone else (like the participants in the study), there is still a benefit to the practice of writing down what you’re thankful for.
There is some research that hints at gratitude having lasting effects on the brain. In fact, it may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved ental health over time.
Gratitude Takes Patience
Gratitude writing’s effects takes time. It took participants about four weeks to report better mental health (and even larger positive effects 12 weeks out). Stick with it and don’t get discouraged.
If you’re grateful for your health and want to keep working toward your fitness goals, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sonja Stilp. Dr. Stilp considers it a gift to care for others and is filled with gratitude.