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How Gratitude Improves Anxiety 

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article on gratitude is Dr. Karin Ryan, PsyD, LP, Clinic Director, Outpatient Therapist 

What is Gratitude? 

Have you ever stopped to consider the impact gratitude can have on your life? It is being thankful for the positive aspects of your life. It's not about ignoring challenges or pretending everything is perfect, but rather taking a mindful approach to appreciate the good things, people, and experiences that enrich your life.  

Taking a minute to pause and reflect is more than just saying "thank you" - it's a conscious practice of appreciating the good things in your life, big or small 

Related: A Fixed vs Growth Mindset 

How does It Benefit Me? 

Practicing gratitude can provide many benefits, not only for your mental wellbeing but also your physical wellbeing. Some benefits include: 

  1. Decreased anxiety and stress: When you appreciate what you have, you tend to worry less about what you don't have. Gratitude can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety and stress 
  1. Enhanced empathy: Gratitude practices encourage us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and the good things we receive from others. This shift in focus helps us move away from a self-centered perspective and consider the experiences of others. 
  1. Mood boosts: It encourages you to savor positive experiences and moments. By lingering on the positive aspects of your life, you can extend the feelings of joy and satisfaction they bring 
  1. Builds self-esteem and resiliency: Gratefulness helps you develop a more positive outlook, which can make you more resilient in the face of challenges and boost your self-esteem 
  1. Improved health: Studies have linked gratitude to improved physical health, including better sleep, a stronger immune system, and lower blood pressure 
  1. Enhanced relationships: Expressing thankfulness to loved ones strengthens bonds and fosters deeper connections 

Practicing gratitude is most effective when you are doing it for yourself. Incorporating time to self-reflect on your appreciation will allow you to be empowered to recognize those things that have positively impacted you. Also, if you are self-ruminating or in a bad mood, recognizing the good in your life can cognitively get you off of that negative thinking track. 

“It makes a big difference. Then there’s that piece of self-esteem. And that ‘I have value’.”  

Dr. Karin Ryan

Related: How to Build Your Self-Esteem 

Ways You Can Practice Gratitude 

There are many ways you can incorporate cultivating gratitude into your day and routine. Below are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Say it out loud: Express gratitude to the people in your life by thanking them for their kindness, support, or simply for being there 
  • Write it down: Keep a journal and actually take some time each day to write down things you're grateful for. This can help solidify your positive thoughts and feelings  
  • Take time to reflect: Make it a habit to intentionally think about the good things in your life, even for small things like a beautiful day or a delicious meal
  • Make a plan: If you struggle to slow down throughout the day to practice gratitude, you can incorporate it into your routine by carving as little as 2 minutes out of your day dedicated to reflecting on what you are grateful for. If you eat a meal with your family or loved one, you can each take turns saying something you are grateful for that day

Another way you can practice gratitude is by having gratitude for things that you can’t control instead of apologizing for the things you can’t control.  

For example, you could be late to a lunch with your friend because you got stuck by a train. Instead of saying “I’m sorry for being late,” you can say “Thank you for waiting for me!” 

“Often times it’ll be something that somebody else has done for you and that feels really rewarding!” 

Dr. Karin Ryan

Related: How to Start Mindfulness Journaling 

Nystrom & Associates on Practicing Gratitude 

Watch Dr. Karin Ryan on Twin Cities Live speak about practicing gratitude:

Dr. Karin Ryan on the benefits and ways to practice gratitude

A Word from Nystrom & Associates 

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or self-esteem and struggle with practicing gratitude, you are not alone! Nystrom provides many resources to help you with your individual needs. Call 1-844-NYSTROM or click here to make an appointment 

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