Have your levels of worry, stress, and sadness been rising? If so, you’re not alone. Negative feelings have been rising since 2011, and, according to Julie Ray, managing editor for world news at Gallup, 2021 the data reveals people are now experiencing more negative experiences and less joy. 

According to an NBC news poll earlier this year, 87% of people said that rising costs of basic necessities are a significant source of stress. They also admitted that being besieged by one unrelenting crisis after another the past two years has affected their mental health negatively. 

Within that same group, sixty-five percent reported feeling worried and stressed about the economy and money. (Keep in mind the poll was conducted in mid-February when respondents were “overwhelmingly concerned” with finances and inflation; that was eight months ago; interest rates, inflation, and prices have soared steadily higher ever since.)

People are feeling a lot more stress and a lot less happiness than ever before, which, when you think about it, is a perfect storm for misery and darkness.

For many people, the pursuit of happiness and the American Dream feel out of reach now more than ever, as anxiety and panic erode peace of mind, and stress and worry replace hope and joy. 

In a word, people feel uncertain and depleted emotionally. 

Replenishing Emotional Reserves

It’s impossible to replenish our emotional reserves by trying to control what we can’t control.  

We can’t control the Federal Reserve’s next decision…

We can’t control the price of groceries or gas…

We can’t control inflation…

But we can choose how we want to feel this moment, at least for a few minutes at a time. We can take a quick break from fear, worry, and panic every day. 

How? By setting aside a few minutes to be grateful for something. 

Someone said it’s hard to be angry and afraid when feeling grateful; gratitude and fear can’t coexist. 

Admittedly, gratitude isn’t the only thing we could or should do to improve our immediate situation. But the few minutes of peace we create for ourselves by feeling grateful eases feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety, giving us emotional “breathing room” to see opportunities that we didn’t see before because we felt stressed or afraid. 

Taking A Break From Worry and Fear 

Gratitude is a feeling, an attitude, and a habit. 

Being a person of gratitude and thanksgiving is a way of life.

A grateful person doesn’t wait for things to be “perfect” before being grateful; first, they are grateful, and then things get better. 

Gratitude And The Mind-Body Connection

Researchers are beginning to realize the emotional and well-being benefits of being and feeling grateful. 

Gratitude is more than making a list of things we’re thankful for.

Choosing to be grateful is choosing to have an optimistic, gratitude-based outlook. Being grateful isn’t something we do; it’s an identity – it’s who we choose to be. By choosing to be grateful we tend to feel grateful.  

Here are some of the many benefits of being, feeling, and expressing gratitude.

The Mental Health Benefits Of Gratitude 

An article on gratitude written by Mary Kate Lee, published on the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs website, says: 

“Emerging evidence shows there may be an alternative approach to battling anxiety and depression without the side effects of medication: Gratitude. Although more research is needed to explore the direct effects of gratitude on the alleviation of mental strife, there is strong indication that gratitude can improve symptoms for those suffering with anxiety and depression… There are many individual benefits one may experience by being grateful, including improved physical and psychological health, increased happiness, life satisfaction, positive mood, meaning in life, and quality of sleep. Trait gratitude is also linked to a more positive outlook on life, increased optimism and hope, and having a more positive interpretation of social situations. Grateful people tend to view adversity as an opportunity for growth, which can increase resilience. This positive perspective may prevent one from hyper-focusing on thoughts or experiences, which can lead to decreased depression and anxiety over time. Experiencing gratitude can also keep a person grounded in the present, leading to increased mindfulness. People are more likely to be generous, kind, and helpful when they are grateful. This can strengthen relationships and improve workplace environments.” 

Practicing gratitude shifts our focus from the worst possible outcomes to looking for opportunities and blessings instead. 

Mary Kate Lee continues, “Gratitude is connected to systems of the brain that regulate emotions and support stress relief, such as heart rate, arousal levels, and pain. When activated, these areas of the brain can boost positive emotions and protect against feelings of anxiety and stress, leading to an overall calmer mood.”

By practicing the habit of gratitude we are transformed into a person of gratitude.

Scientists have recorded increased levels of dopamine and serotonin after intentional gratitude meditations. 

Gratitude just might be the happy pill we’ve been looking for!

The Physical Benefits Of Gratitude 

The release of “feel-good” hormones (happy hormones) affects us physically. 

Gratitude reduces stress. When feelings of stress, worry, anxiety, or panic are reduced, guess what happens? We sleep better, and our blood pressure lowers; as a result, we feel better physically and have more energy. 

People who feel better tend to live better, increasing overall physical well-being. 

For instance, if you feel better about yourself and your life and are more energetic, you’re more likely to practice healthier habits. For example, you might feel like taking a walk outside. The fresh air will flood your bloodstream with calm-inducing oxygen; your body will soak up vitamin D from the sunshine; and your brain will release the “happy hormone” serotonin.  

You’ll feel better, sleep better, and make better choices. 

Who would’ve thought that something as simple as being grateful could help turn us into a healthier, happier, and stronger version of ourselves? 

Furthermore, having less stress and lower blood puts less strain on the heart; the increased physical activity fosters restful sleep and strengthens the heart. It’s a health-inducing cycle.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful things we can do to feel happier, more hopeful, and stronger. 

8 Ways To Have Greater Happiness & Peace With Gratitude

Here are some ideas to feel happier and have more peace with gratitude: 

1. Create a morning gratitude routine where you think of at least one to three people or things you’re deeply grateful for as soon as you wake up to set the tone for your day.

2. Send a thank you card to someone who did something nice for you.

3. Send a note encouraging someone going through a tough time.

4. Meditate on one of the many faith-building promises in the Bible.

5. Make time for meaningful social connections regularly.

6. Share your worries, wants, and concerns with God.

7. Journal about your situation; find something good. It could be worse than it is, but it isn’t. Someone once said, “If you can’t find something to be thankful for, then be thankful for something you don’t have that you don’t want!”

8. Imagine how things could be better. What are one or two things you could do to improve your situation? Set a goal and start improving your life; you’ll feel empowered and more in control.

No one is denying that we’re living in difficult times. Gratitude isn’t an avoidance tactic where you stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. On the contrary! Gratitude is planting your flag in the ground and declaring, “This is how I choose to live! I refuse to be bullied by fear and uncertainty. And I’ll settle for nothing less than the best life I deserve and am willing to work for!”

Unleash the power of gratitude in your life today!

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

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