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Amira McLaughlin

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Anxiety can manifest several physical symptoms impacting the various areas of your life. Your thoughts are felt, too. And much of anxiety’s causes are located in your brain. I want you to understand that your mind plays a significant role in both the way the condition is created and how it plays out. So that gives you power; you can use mental strategies to manage your anxiety. One of my favorite strategies that work for many of our conditions is gratitude. Read on to discover the link between gratitude and anxiety.

Studies have highlighted the numerous benefits of gratitude on the body and the mind. A couple of benefits of expressing gratitude are the decrease in physical pain and improved sleep. As we learned a couple of days ago, healthy sleep patterns are essential in overcoming anxious thought patterns leading to more optimistic thoughts, thereby influencing more positive behaviors. It is important to remind you, the connection between thoughts and the resulting actions, or behaviors, is a strong one. Positive behaviors can lead you to feel better about yourself and more productive. When you get more done, you’re likely less worried about the consequences of not doing so, and you worry less. Feeling optimistic and thankful doesn’t leave room for the negative emotions of anxiousness or sadness. 

In fact, thoughts, which create feelings of gratitude, have been shown to fire up the hypothalamus, which is a region of the brain that controls functions like metabolism, stress, and sleep. Also, being grateful can trigger other areas of the brain, such as the feel-good neurochemical, dopamine. 

Forming a habit of gratitude begins a cycle that changes your perspective, and maybe even your life. So how can you get started on this journey to being more grateful? There’s no end to the possibilities, but I’m happy to throw out some suggestions to get you started. You’ll find that being grateful is a habit that gets easier with practice. Once you start, you’ll probably notice yourself looking on the bright side and feeling thankful for what you have far more frequently than you did in the past. 

  • One of the easiest ways to feel thankful is actually to thank someone. It can be as simple as a verbal acknowledgment during your day when someone does something for you or can delve deeper by writing a heartfelt note to a meaningful friend or loved one. 
  • Another strategy is to examine your week and note at least three things that were wonderful or that went well. It’s human nature to look at the negative. Make a concerted effort to turn that around by recognizing the awesome stuff, too. You’ll see things really may not be as bad as they seem. 
  • One last suggestion is to demonstrate acts of kindness. See who you can help this week and make a note of it. Helping others has a way of showing us just how many good things we possess. 

Who knew something as simple as being grateful could have such an effect on lessening anxiety? This practice may not come easily right away, but it’s definitely worth the effort to make gratitude a habit if you want to feel less anxious. 

As my mother would say when I was young, “Put some gratitude in your attitude!” I truly believe “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

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