By Sarit Swisa, Clinical Psychologist

I’m not sure about you, but many people start off they year feeling quite stressed. They’re bankrupt from the festive season, overwhelmed by how much there is to plan and organise for the coming months and worry just creeps in in its pernicious way that starts to colour one’s thinking. While these concerns may be very real and immediate, allowing them to take over one’s experience completely would also be untrue to reality. Unfortunately, it seems that negativity often just has a stronger foothold over our experiences. Even if you are not experiencing this kind of stress, gratitude is an excellent way to keep your mind healthy and your motivation alive to deal with difficulties that may come your way.

Hearing this might make you want to stop reading at this point if it feels that being told to be grateful undermines your hardships. Hence I want to stress that positive psychology is not, and should not be a means of simply sweeping our problems under the rug. We can think of it as eating healthily when you are sick. The positive change to diet doesn’t deny that you are unwell – it does something to help you manage your health better! Similarly, gratitude has been proven in numerous studies to help unstick people’s minds somewhat so that they feel less bogged down and more able to cope.

Gratitude has been found to strengthen relationships and open the door to more relationships as someone who is cognisant of the efforts of others is more likely to be sought out. People who are grateful tend to be physically healthier and more motivated to keep fit and care for their wellbeing. They also tend to sleep better. Psychological health is enhanced in many ways by a thankful attitude. One tends to be less envious and self-critical as one can acknowledge others’ goodness without it being a threat. Appreciative people are also less aggressive and more resilient in coping as through gratitude, a more nuanced perception of life as being filled with blessing alongside the difficulties is created.

Just a few ways to actively work on increasing your appreciation are listed here to help you get going:

  • Keep a gratitude journal – record three things each day for which you are genuinely thankful. This could be as simple as having hot water to shower or smelling a delicious aroma. See how you feel after three weeks of consistently keeping record.
  • Be mindful of thanking family, friends and colleagues for something that could easily be taken for granted every day.
  • Think of unique ways to express thanks – either by picking up the phone, writing a letter or giving a small gift to show people that their actions have mattered to you.

The following link is to a short video that captures the ideas expressed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

On that note, I’ll express my thanks to you for reading this! I hope these practices serve you well!

If you are struggling to let go of past hurts, have anger in your heart and cannot find the emotional strength to live your life to the fullest, please call PsychMatters Centre on 0114503576 or info@psychmatters.co.za to assist you to live more master-fully!

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