How to Improve Mental Health From Gratitude

We all need to know how to improve mental health from gratitude. Years ago, my children decorated a cardboard shoe box with gold wrapping paper. They cut a slit on the box top to deposit folded papers with their gratitude for that day. On Thanksgiving, we opened the box full of gratitudes and read them aloud.

It’s become a habit to write what I’m thankful for in a journal. The most recent is the Five Minute Journal. If you balk at the idea of writing in a journal, this one is designed to be a five minute daily practice. The method aligns with improving mental health from a practice of gratitude.

Whatever method we use, there’s benefits from the practice of thinking, writing, and verbalizing what we appreciate.

Practice of Thinking Gratitudes

The practice of thinking gratitudes are more powerful than you might imagine. In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hansen illustrates that negativity clings to brain cells like Velcro. He compares how positive thinking on those same cells slide off like Teflon, unless we ponder those thoughts for more than 15 seconds.

No wonder we struggle with depression and anxiety! Is it a surprise to know that meditation is good for us? This finding with neuroscience reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses in Philippians 4:8 which lists positive ways to meditate. Even from ancient times, truth about our well-being depends on thinking things that are:

  • Just
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Good
  • Virtuous
  • Praiseworthy

We have control over our thoughts and can choose to focus on gratitude. It’s easy to ruminate on negative thoughts. Positive thinking requires time and practice.

If you have a family history of depression or anxiety or you struggle with negativity, here’s what to do. Begin a  ratio of twenty positive thoughts to every one negative. The twenty to one ratio gets brain chemistry to balance from the lopsided negative patterns.

How can you possibly count and keep track of such a ratio? The idea is to be continually on the look out for the pure, lovely, beautiful, and thankful moments in life. You will find what you’re looking for.

You have the power to develop, practice, and master positive thinking that increases your mental wellness. Just like any other skill, it takes repetitious behaviors.

Practice of Writing Gratitudes

When you write daily gratitudes you’re doing your brain a favor. Hand-writing alone is an amazing and intricate task of the mind. The dexterity of intangible ideas are formed from hand to pen and paper. Many writers have aha moments while writing. It’s in the ahas that we become clear in our thoughts. Hand-writing slows us down enough to pay attention to what we normally wouldn’t notice.

Our attention to gratitude help us establish healthy neuropathways. When we’re intentionally grateful, we become more aware.

The Five Minute Journal is a daily morning and evening entry of two and a half minutes each. It’s as quick as brushing and flossing your teeth. You begin each morning writing a short list from three areas of focus:

Three things you’re thankful for

Three things that would make today great

An affirmation about yourself

Evening questions from the journal include:

Three amazing things that happened that day

One way you could have made the day better

The questions remind me of the Daily Examine prayer which is an ancient practice from Christendom. Writing down appreciations train your neurons toward life-giving positivity.

If you want to become an optimistic person with resilience against depression, write down what you’re thankful for each day.

When you write daily gratitudes you're doing your brain a favor. Click To Tweet

Practice of Verbal Gratitudes

The practice of verbal gratitudes are powerful. Without being intentional, my husband and I have naturally asked each other right before going to bed, “What are your three amazing things today?” We’ll take a moment to ponder before answering. Many times I’ll quickly say, “Oh, I almost forgot to write it down.” We’ve become accountability partners to look for those appreciations and gratitudes.

When we verbalize appreciations and amazing things to our spouse and others we care about, we feel more connected. It breaks through barriers of silence. We learn to treasure our relationships.

In summary, thinking, writing, and verbalizing gratitude not only changes brain chemistry, but it restores relationships. Whether you use a box, jar, or journal, begin the practice of gratitude.

Verbalizing gratitude makes your relationships healthy. Click To Tweet