My Experience with Gratitude
By Dr. Heather Koth, November 1, 2021
ATLANTA – In my work as a therapist, I have often read research articles, books and accounts about how developing a gratitude practice can help reduce depression and anxiety, improve life satisfaction, and shift negative thought patterns. However, I had personally been resistant to starting my own practice. I even recommend to clients, but had not taken the steps or made an intention to formally try it in my own life.
As the pandemic continued on and life stressors compounded, I found myself with more negative thinking and challenging mood shifts. I finally bought myself a gratitude journal. Instead of intellectually thinking about gratitude and talking to others about it, I was actually going to try it as a practice!
I reminded myself that I didn’t have to be perfect at it – if I miss a day, or three, that’s OK. I’m not always consistent and doing practices daily, so I knew to give myself grace and not set up an unrealistic expectation that may lead to frustration if I missed a day or two. I kept the journal accessible each morning and tied it to another activity that I do most every day… drinking coffee. I began writing three simple things each day.
Here’s what I noticed:
At first I felt like I was struggling to come up with things. I also wasn’t sure if it felt authentic, but I did it anyway. Some days were easier, somewhere harder. Some days I only wrote two and other days I wrote more. I wasn’t perfect at it and but I kept doing it. Six months later, I have noticed a shift. I more naturally begin thinking about things I’m grateful for throughout the day. My appreciation and gratefulness for the people and things around me feels more authentic. I don’t have to be in front of my journal to think about things that I appreciate. My negative thinking is offset by corresponding positive thoughts. So in short, it worked for me too.
How can you start your own gratitude practice? You don’t have to wait for a new year, or a Monday, or some future, ideal and quiet time to start a new practice. You can start today. Use your phone, use a journal, or write it on a piece of paper. I do recommend keeping the list in the same place if possible to help build the practice. When starting, habit stacking with something else you do on a daily basis can help you get in the routine. If you skip a day, that’s OK. Skip two. Just come back to it and keep at it. You will begin to see and feel the benefits of cultivating a gratitude mindset!
About the Author: Dr. Koth is a Board Member with Mental Health America of Georgia. She is also a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) therapist with Intown Professional Counseling.
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America of Georgia (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association of Georgia) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with mental health challenges as well as promoting mental wellness throughout Georgia. We represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of everyone in our state, emphasizing mental health as a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. We work to increase the quality of life and advocate for independence for individuals with a severe and persistent mental illness through our training programs and supports. We advocate with community partners to eliminate health disparities and reduce stigma and discrimination.