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The Science of Gratitude

grateful gratitude holiday stress mental health mindfulness Nov 05, 2021

Gratitude can shift your overall well being and help you to focus on what is good instead of all that seems off around us.

When I was a teen, I did not get along with my mom. We fought daily. One day I decided that every time I argued with my mom, I would go and work on a scrap book of just the two of us.  I glued in funny pictures of us, decorated it, and put loving words on the pages. This IMMEDIATELY diffused my anger toward my mom. It was incredibly therapeutic. 

As we approach the holidays, you may become triggered emotionally by C and E people. C and E people? These are people you only want to see on Christmas and Easter. These are the people that can get under your skin faster than a subcutaneous injection and now, Covid has caused a rift in even the closest families.

The differences of opinions and viewpoints to perhaps the level of fears from one person to the next can be extremely taxing. How do you pull through what I am calling “The Great Emotional Endurance Test of 2020-2021”?  This is exactly what this past year and half has been…an emotional test.

The Holidays are another level of this test and I want to give you the tool of Gratitude.

A small study was done out of Berkley by Dr. Joshua Brown and Dr. Joel Wong, where they wondered how gratitude might impact the brains of those who were struggling with mental health issues.

They had about 300 adult participants, mainly in college, who were all actively seeking counseling. One group was instructed to write a gratitude letter to someone, but they didn’t have to send the letter. Another group was instructed to simply journal their negative thoughts. The final group was to simply go to counseling. 

Those who wrote the gratitude letters had better mental health outcomes 10- 12 weeks later, meaning the benefits were noticed over time. Also, within those letters, those who wrote fewer negative words had a more positive impact on mental health.

If the holidays are seeming extra stressful, try one of the following:

  1. Write a gratitude letter. You don’t have to give it to them as you’ll see the benefits either way.
  2. Try recalling happy and fun times with the person who triggers you.
  3. At 11:11 am or pm, come up with 11 things you are grateful for.

I'm grateful for you, the reader, for your support!

Dr. Lexi

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