Did you know that gratitude works like a muscle? The more you use it, the easier it is to feel and access (with no soreness as you’re starting out). Even better, regularly practicing gratitude can make you feel really, really good. At LIFEbeat, we see the joy and community building that is a direct result of practicing gratitude in our camp and training programmes. In fact, we weave it in based on pretty rock solid information that it will do just that. Research even shows that practicing gratitude helps people improve their life, build strong relationships, and feel more positive emotions. It can lower the risk of anxiety and depression. Some studies have even shown practicing gratitude changes the brain itself. And it’s free.
This feels particularly relevant in the United Kingdom right now, where the conversation about mental health is really exploding alongside campaigns for greater #MentalHealthAwareness. It’s so important to remember that taking care of our mental health doesn’t always have to cost money, or mean taking drugs, or going to therapy, although of course interventions like this can sometimes be necessary. At LIFEbeat we want to live in a society where appreciating each other and what we have been gifted is more common than ever, and where we all feel the benefits.
Here are some easy practices for gratitude and appreciation that can help boost our wellbeing and mental health.
In Groups – Gratitude Circle
This is an easy activity you can do with your family around the dinner table or a group of friends. Be in a circle and take turns thanking each other for specific things you have noticed. It could be something they did for you, or just something you appreciated about them during the day (or week!). The key here is that it’s public, in a larger group than just the two of you. Then, the whole group bigs up what the expression of gratitude
One to One – Specific Appreciation
Next time you see someone do something amazing, or take a step out of their comfort zone, try appreciating them, directly and specifically. At LIFEbeat camps, we do this by presenting someone with a bead (which we collect on necklaces throughout the week) when you are appreciating or thanking them. In your home, school or office you could use any currency you like – even the verbal acknowledgement goes a long way.
In private – Gratitude Journal
Each day, write down 3 things you’re grateful for. It can be simple, or something very close to the heart. The practice of looking more deeply at something simple, like a piece of toast, can make us appreciate it more fully. After all, the people who grew the grain, baked the bread, and delivered it to us all played a part in giving us the experience of toast – not to mention the crew who made the jam possible. Likewise, remembering the major friends or mentors in our lives is a powerful way to deepen gratitude and bring on good feelings.
LIFEbeat’s mission is to improve the emotional wellbeing of young people – giving them the skills and inspiration to overcome the challenges they face, to navigate the divisions in society and to lead confident, healthy and purposeful lives. runs trainings in facilitation and group work for adults and summer residential programmes for teenagers. Find us @LIFEbeatUK on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.