Giving ‘Thanks’: How Counting Your Blessings Can Boost Your Mood

If you’re interested in an all-natural method of reducing your stress and improving your mood, try counting your blessings. While it may seem somewhat improbable, being grateful actually has a number of health benefits.

How Gratitude Affects Your Mood

As this Mayo Clinic post explains, making an active effort to consider all the positive things in our lives can be very effective at improving your mood, boosting your self-esteem and lowering your overall stress level. The reason thankfulness has such a profound effect on our mental well-being is that it helps us find a positive perspective on the aspects of our lives that we might otherwise perceive as being negative. For example, having to pay for new tires is not a lot of fun, but it is an undeniable reminder that you have a vehicle which allows you to travel at your own discretion. Having a more optimistic view about life’s daily trials can help you from developing the negative thought patterns that can sometimes lead to certain emotional disorders like anxiety or depression.

Scientific Inquiries into the Power of Gratitude

Studies have shown that being thankful can have a positive impact on your mental health. Research conducted by the University of California, Riverside and Duke University found that adopting a positive outlook, including regular acknowledgments of a person’s blessings, can be effective in treating clinical depression.

Additionally, Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, wrote Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier in 2007 about his extensive research into the positive effects of gratitude. In one study, Dr. Emmons and his colleagues assigned one group of people to write down five things that upset them over the course of a week while another group was instructed to write down five things they are grateful for weekly. Once the exercise was completed, it was determined that the gratitude-focused group was more optimistic and had fewer medical issues than the negativity centric group.

Strategies for Increasing Your Gratitude Level

Here are a few easy ways you can up your gratitude level and improve your overall well-being.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of your workday, but before you settle in for the night, write down a few things you’re grateful for. The list doesn’t have to be particularly long, detailed or profound, but the simple act of acknowledging the positives in your life can brighten your mood considerably. 
  • Find a gratitude partner. If you’re having a hard time filling out your daily list, contact one of your friends to ask for help. Having another person’s perspective on the good things in your life will help you get out of your own head a little. In return, you can help them with their list. Having a gratitude partner will help you maintain your positivity when you’re feeling stressed out.
  • Create an online thankful list. In today’s technologically-driven world, you don’t need to keep your thankfulness journal in a notebook; you can maintain an online gratitude list that you can access with your smart phone as well as your desktop computer. It’s useful to have a dedicated list of all the things in your life you’re grateful for when you’re on the go in case you need a midday pick me up.
  • Say thank you to everyone who does something nice for you over the course of your day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to say two words when someone holds the door open for you or hands back your change after you make a purchase. You’ll be surprised at how nice it feels to be kind to other people and how your kindness will help other people feel better about themselves.
  • Start your day off by mentally reviewing all the things you’re thankful for as soon as you wake up. By recognizing how lucky you are to be able to sleep in a warm bed, eat a filling breakfast and work in a job that pays you enough to meet all your financial obligations, you’ll put yourself in a positive frame of mind that will help you deal with whatever challenges the new day brings.