Around this time of the year, talk of gratitude and giving thanks gets thrown around so much that it is easy to tune it out. Although Thanksgiving has a complicated history that is important to acknowledge, taking some time to focus on the teachings of gratitude at its core can have an amazing impact on your healing journey.
In celebration of the season, I would like to share with you how important gratitude is, especially for those on the path to thriving after surviving trauma.
Why is gratitude important?
Gratitude is vital in everyone’s life, not just those healing from traumatic events. Taking even a few moments to practice gratitude in a day can send ripples of positivity through your mind and help you engage with the world around you in a more joyful way. Practicing gratitude has been shown to relieve stress, reduce pain, and improve overall health. Gratitude also calms the parasympathetic nervous system – a place trauma can become trapped in the body.
Experiencing overly adverse events in life can almost rewire our brains to focus on the negative as a self-defense mechanism. As a result, people adopt the strategy of fixating on negative events, believing they may feel more prepared to deal with them should they occur again. While it is important to be realistic, if left unchecked, it can be easy to slip into rigid negative thinking. Taking some time to focus on things you are grateful for can refocus your brain to find more positive things to be grateful for, thus increasing your enjoyment of life.
How to practice gratitude
There are so many ways to practice gratitude, the important thing is to find a practice you can do on a regular basis, not just on Thanksgiving.
Here are some of our favorite ways of practicing gratefulness:
- Keep a gratitude journal – keeping a consistent gratitude journal can be a great way to see your progress over time as well as help you hold on to the small meaningful moments in life.
- Take some time to sit down at the end of the day and write down five things you experienced that you are grateful for. Go into as much detail as you can and allow time to bask in the warm feelings that arise from this practice
- Practice a mindful gratitude meditation
- Tell someone that you are grateful for them – whether a loved one or a stranger, a few kind words can do wonders for both the speaker and the one listening.
- Share your thankfulness over social media – doing this can break the monotony of social media and even a small piece of gratitude this way can reach so many people and remind them to practice gratitude as well.
[Read: Learning to be compassionate with yourself after trauma]
Gratitude is too wonderful to just practice at Thanksgiving. Not only is it an amazing tool to help us heal, but it is also a fantastic addition to your mental health toolkit. It helps us to feel better and more connected to the world and others around us.
Although gratitude can do amazing things, it is not a replacement for the support of a trained and experienced healthcare professional. If you are someone you know is suffering from the effects of trauma on their mental health, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
About the Author
Katie Bohn, LPC, BC-DMT, SEP is a somatic trauma therapist in St. Louis, MO, and founder of Emovere- Embodied Therapy. She loves helping people reconnect to their vitality and aliveness after experiencing trauma. She is a somatic experiencing practitioner and a dance/movement therapist.