Feeling Thankful Is Helpful for Anxiety
We are right on the verge of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. It's such a great time to reflect, not only on just the year overall but also on how my ability to cope with my anxiety has progressed. A helpful strategy that I've really taken the time to focus on this year has been practicing gratitude and how it has helped me manage my anxiety levels.
Why Thankfulness Is Helpful for Anxiety
Something I have learned about practicing gratitude is that it can help me feel calm when I am feeling anxious. Usually, anxiety and focusing on the negative aspects of things go hand-in-hand. Staying positive becomes difficult when symptoms of anxiety are distressing and make you feel constantly uncomfortable. And, when you deal with chronic anxiety, it can be even harder to focus on anything positive, even though you know that doing so is helpful.
Practicing gratitude helps reduce stress and increases positive emotions through the boost of brain chemicals that make us feel good.1 One of the reasons that I think this happens is because, when we focus on things that we are grateful for, we are intentionally thinking about something that elicits that precise emotion. I think this is more specific than simply trying to think of something positive.
Ways to Be Thankful When You're Anxious
While I know, through the literature that I've read, that practicing gratitude isn't some sort of magic remedy or cure for anxiety, and that it takes some time to build resilience, I also know that it is a helpful tool in my toolbox of calming strategies.1 And right now, being thankful is timely for this particular time of year. These are some simple ways to practice gratitude that I've found helpful to incorporate into my life:
- Use something visual. There is something reinforcing about writing something down that you are grateful for. Being able to visualize that which makes you feel thankful seems to bring out those positive emotions that help to reduce focus on anything negative. I've found that pictures or writing out objects of gratitude is extremely helpful for me.
- Meditate. Taking the time to sit in silence and think about what you are thankful for can also be helpful. This helps to stay grounded and focus on the moment. Just taking a few minutes to practice doing this is a valuable strategy that can help increase the frequency of experiencing gratitude benefits.
- Make it a daily practice. And so, it is helpful to practice these things on a daily basis, and not just during this time of year when we tend to be quite thankful. That is not to say that we can't still feel intentionally grateful during this time. However, taking the time each day to think about things you are grateful for in your life can help to build resilience.
I am thankful for being able to use gratitude to help calm my anxiety symptoms and reduce the anxiety I experience. Are there things you are particularly thankful for this year that have helped to reduce your anxiety? Share your strategies for practicing gratitude in the comments below.
Chowdhury, R. B. M. A. (2022, September 9). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and Effects on the Brain. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2022, November 22). Feeling Thankful Is Helpful for Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2022/11/feeling-thankful-is-helpful-for-anxiety