Day 1: List 10 Things You’re Grateful For
A Gratitude Exercise
I took a course in college that was all about gratitude — mainly because I needed more credits and I thought it was just going to be a silly, simple class that would easily boost my GPA. And while it did turn out to be a lighthearted class (it’s gratitude after all), I actually learned a lot about the strong influence of gratitude on our mental well-being.
Expressing gratitude is an underrated practice that, at first, might make you feel embarrassed because let’s face it — it sounds a little cheesy.
But the goal of today’s challenge is to show you the power of expressing gratitude on our mental health. It’s an incredible positive practice that can have a beneficial impact on your life.
So let’s dive a little bit into the science, to find out why gratitude is actually something to take seriously.
What the Science Says
A 2016 study was conducted to test if gratitude could be a useful intervention in people who struggle with mental health.
300 adults were separated into three groups:
- Group 1 was the gratitude group. They were tasked with writing letters of gratitude to others.
- Group 2 was the expressive group. They were tasked with writing about troubling thoughts and feelings around stressful experiences
- Group 3 was the control group. They weren’t assigned any writing task.
After just four weeks, participants in the gratitude group already reported a significantly better mental health state. And after the full 12 weeks? They all maintained a higher levels of positivity. A considerable reason for this is because they used less negative words and had an overall positive ~vibe~ in their writing than the other groups.
But here’s the other surprising revelation: the expressive group and control group didn’t significantly differ.
So what does this all mean?
The study suggests that gratitude exercises can be an effective method to use in psychotherapy clients.
I know some people don’t have diagnosed mental health issues, so many of you may be thinking, “Well, this doesn’t apply to me.” But here’s the great news: You don’t have to have a therapist or a diagnosed mental illness — gratitude can be easily practiced from anywhere.
Plus, gratitude is effective for anyone and everyone. Which brings us to Study #2.
But many studies have shown gratitude is beneficial for everyone. In fact, expressing gratitude results in a biological response — as found in a study that tracked neural changes where after practicing gratitude, serotonin and dopamine, “the pleasure centers” of the brain, are released. Research also revealed that the regions in the brain activated are similar to the regions that signify empathy.
The Two Key Factors of Gratitude
Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude (and my gratitude professor!) wrote an essay called Why Gratitude is Good.
He explains there are two key factors of gratitude.
Firstly, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
Secondly, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people — or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset — gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Feelin' the Gratitude?
After reading this and understanding the science, I think many of us can agree, no matter what stage in our lives we’re in right now — whether you’re diagnosed with a mental health disorder or not — gratitude is powerful and beneficial. And we could all use a little more of it in our lives.
If you need some inspiration on how to start your gratitude list, you can read my gratitude list here.