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October Wellness: Show Gratitude!

This month’s #WestwindWellness challenge is SHOW GRATITUDE.

Researchers at Indiana University recently completed a study on gratitude involving nearly 300 adults, mostly college students, who were seeking mental health counselling at a university. Participants were recruited just before they began their first counselling session, and, on average, they reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time. The majority of people seeking counselling services at this university in general struggled with issues related to depression and anxiety.

Researchers randomly assigned our study participants into three groups. Although all three groups received counselling services, the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.

What were the results? Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counselling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns."

Dr. Greg Wells says, "in the past two decades, researchers have learned that gratitude is strongly related to all aspects of well-being. Gratitude has also been shown to reduce mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

“Gratitude also reduces stress, lowers heart rate, decreases inflammation in the body, improves sleep, strengthens relationships, reduces conflict, and triggers reciprocally helpful behaviour. This last finding means that a person who shows gratitude—for a friend’s input, a home-cooked meal, or a parent’s help with homework—will increase the likelihood that the recipient will show more care and compassion toward others. Gratitude generates kind-hearted acts like the ripples of a pebble dropped in water.”

The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. Check out his Ted Talk: Want to be happy? Be grateful. It’s an inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you're going, and above all, being grateful.

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