There is a popular saying that, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” As clinicians, we must make sure to “fill up our own cup,” before trying to help others. Self-care and happiness-boosting practices are especially important for us mental health clinicians. It is difficult to effectively serve others, if we do not regularly engage in practices that help to enhance our mood and release stress.
There is an abundance of research to suggest that regularly practicing gratitude has a variety of mental health benefits. For instance, research suggests that practicing gratitude leads to a greater sense of life satisfaction and happiness.
The following are three simple ways that you can feel more gratitude throughout your day.
1.Make a Gratitude List
A powerful daily habit, which can truly transform your mindset, is the practice of making gratitude lists. We are evolutionarily wired to attune to threats in our environment. Thus, it makes sense that our brains are constantly scanning for negative and potentially dangerous situations. However, with time and practice, we can form new neural pathways in our brain, simply by attuning to the positive things that occur throughout our day.
Making a daily gratitude list takes little time and can have a tremendous impact on your overall sense of satisfaction and happiness. One great app called “Thankful,” enables you to set a daily reminder to make a gratitude list and gives you a space to do so.
2. Express Your Gratitude for Someone Else
Often we do not make enough time to express our gratitude for others in our lives. Another powerful practice is to take time out of each day to express gratitude for someone who has positively impacted your life. Whether it is expressing gratitude towards your spouse for a task that they helped you with, or thanking the grocery store clerk for speeding along your checkout, taking a moment to express gratitude towards someone else can be powerful.
3. Write Down the Highlights of Your Week
Another exercise is to take a moment and make a list of things that went well this past week or things that you accomplished. After you write down the highlights of your week, you can then write why you are thankful for these experiences.
To take the exercise one step further, you can think about a challenge or difficult situation that you are experiencing and try to figure out something for which you can be thankful. While it may seem paradoxical, often it is during difficult times that we are able to truly learn and grow. Being able to find things to be thankful for in difficult times can help you to transform your mindset and better cope with challenges.
The Power of Gratitude
While it may seem simplistic, practicing gratitude can have a powerful and transformative impact on our lives. It’s important to note that gratitude is a practice and it can take some time before you see results. For instance, you wouldn’t expect to go to one dance class and become an expert dancer. Gratitude can be learned through daily or weekly repetition. Over time, you can actually train your brain to attune to the positive aspects of your life.
Ultimately, if we are not able to be thankful for what we already have, it is unlikely that we will feel thankful upon receiving more. Adopting a mindset of gratitude can help you to attune to the positive aspects of your life and subsequently feel happier and more fulfilled.
 In praise of gratitude. (November, 2011). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude