Mental Health is not a privilege. In fact, the state of our mental health is in constant flux as a result of our life experiences, and to keep it at an optimal level, requires conscious work.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear that our mental health may be suffering until it’s too late. Much of the time, we may not realize the magnitude of the stress we’re carrying until we lash out, or react impulsively, often times hurting those around us. This is where having a Mental Health Toolbox comes in handy. Just like the toolbox you keep in the garage, there are a certain set of tools you can have handy to help better mentally equip you for your daily troubles.
Certain tools are staples in everyone’s toolbox, a hammer is one of them. When adding tools to your Mental Health Toolbox, that hammer is good old Gratitude. Yes, Gratitude. Oxford Dictionary defines Gratitude as the “quality of being thankful.” I’d like to take it a step further and say that Gratitude is the act of being thankful. Having Gratitude is an active choice and is the conscious decision to pause and choose to be appreciative.
Believe it or not, when you feel grateful, neurotransmitters in your body signal the release of chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Those chemicals give you positive feelings and are designed to make you feel happy. Giving way to those positive feelings, and moving to a spirit of thankfulness, quiets negative emotions like fear, worry and sadness.
Choosing to pause and be mindful of our blessings gives us a moment of mental balance where we can harness our inner strength and adjust our perspective to tackle our daily troubles.
Try it out for yourself. I’d like you to pause, take a few slow, deep breaths and think of three things that you are grateful for right now – no matter how big or small. In times like these, it can be tough to shift our focus from the burden of life and try to find positives. Despite your current circumstances, is there anything you’ve done to make you proud of yourself? Has a certain friend been a good support system for you? Have you been blessed to spend more time with your pet? Has anyone done something nice for you recently? Have there been any silver linings to come out of this place of darkness?
What I’d like you to walk away with, is the realization that a simple shift in your perspective can make an enormous difference. At any point in your day, if you want to feel more hopeful, uplifted, or less worried, simply press the pause button, pull out your “gratitude hammer” and breath slowly – allow yourself to imagine two to three things for which you are grateful. Choose to serve yourself by utilizing gratitude to shape your day!