How to Use Gratitude for Stress/Anxiety Relief

Do you have an attitude of gratitude?

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But Can Gratitude Reduce Stress and Anxiety?

YES! Consider this common characteristic of anxiety, stress, worry, fear and overwhelm: they are all based in either the past or the future.

Past focus has you over-thinking what happened in the past…What went wrong? What did they think of me? Why did that thing have to happen? Did I do the right thing? What should I have said or done?

Future focus can lead to obsessing about things that are out of your control…What will happen? What if something goes wrong? Will I do it right? What if this bad thing happens? What if that?

Gratitude is always in the present moment, and that is where the most peace and happiness is found.

Practice, Practice, Practice

While we may understand gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain at attitude of gratitude. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become a habit. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, and that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for what we have right now, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Practicing gratitude simply helps our brain change the focus of its attention.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. That approach would never work. It’s more a matter of where we consciously choose to put our focus and attention.

Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life in the present moment, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope. This helps us make it through stressful times, and is an effective way to reduce anxiety.

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

    • writing-stencilKeep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily or weekly list. Greater frequency is better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
    • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures of things you are grateful for.
    • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
    • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
    • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead.  Or, get all the complains out first followed immediately by your gratitude list.  You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

As you make a habit of gratitude, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That feeling automatically helps counteract stress and anxiety.

Try it right now! Name one thing you can be grateful for right now. Good now name one more. And you’re on your way!