Revitalize your life with this simple act

Revitalize your life

By Jenna Bieker Jones, MSW, LSW

Did you know that there is real power in a simple act to create a major boost in your life? Research and experience attest to the capacity of this action to help increase happiness, elevate relationships, relieve depression, and more.

Hang with me here – believe it or not, this comes from a simple choice to be grateful.

The power of gratitude is easy to mock and write off in an increasingly cynical world, but that does not change its transformative power.

Expressing appreciation–even when you don’t feel like it–leads to a variety of positive outcomes. Being grateful or recognizing the positive benefits and experiences that you’ve had (or are having), truly helps you and the people around you.

It’s almost effortless to be grateful. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, why not focus on what you’re thankful for? After all, it quite literally produces positive shifts in your physical and mental life.

Positive Changes

In a recent study by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that people who are grateful often experience key changes in their physical brain, including the following:

  • Reduction of cortisol, rightly called the “stress hormone.” When we face a threatening situation, cortisol helps us prepare to do our best in overcoming it. But when cortisol appears because of stress, it can contribute to anxiety, depression, sleeping issues, weight gain, and even chronic health conditions like heart disease. Setting your sights on gratitude can reduce the likelihood of those conditions.
  • Increased production of dopamine and serotonin, those “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain that improve mood. They also help produce feelings of happiness, well-being, and even pleasure.    
  • Brain rewiring from the consistent practice of gratitude. Seeking out things to be thankful for actually changes the way our brains operate. If we adopt and sustain an attitude of gratitude, we strengthen or even create neural pathways that promote feelings of well-being, good self-esteem, and a positive outlook. It’s training a new muscle – looking for the positive now makes it easier to do so in the future.
  • Increased attractiveness to others from developing a positive attitude literally makes others more attractive. Think of negative people you’ve spent time with – it gets less enjoyable quickly. People like to receive meaningful compliments, and they are generally more likely to prefer people who are optimistic and positive. 


How Do I Start?

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely wondering how to make these changes for yourself. Consider the following tips: 

Give yourself permission

Sometimes we may think “gratitude is for other people, I have too many problems, or I’m not like that.” Gratitude actually is a personal, deliberate choice. Many people who express gratitude or compliment others may themselves not initially “feel” grateful but giving yourself permission to try this strategy is the first step to lasting positive change. 

Start small and work up

Everyone has something to be grateful about. This could be a good friend, a recent event, a sunny and pleasant day, a small achievement or success…it could just be that you woke up to another day. When starting a new habit, you have to set reasonable, attainable goals. Today you could notice one piece of the day that you are grateful for, and tomorrow it could be three. Do not overthink this – start with something small and simple

Write it down

This does not have to be formal! Write five things down that you are grateful for in a notebook, on a post-it, in your phone’s notes, or type it on your computer. The simple process of writing gets you started and allows you to reflect on the positive things happening! 

Keep it up!

Changing your thinking does not happen overnight. Creating lasting change takes persistence. When you implement these tips, be sure to continue your efforts to lead to the positive outcomes you are looking for!

An attitude to gratitude is not difficult to implement but can change your life in many ways! Give it a shot starting today.

Jenna Bieker Jones is a Licensed Social Worker providing therapy services at the Crawford County Southern Indiana Community Health Care offices—Patoka Family Health Care and Crawford County Family Health Care. Jenna specializes in substance use disorder treatment in teenagers and adults but can see any patients in need of therapy services that have Medicaid insurance. Considering therapy services? Call to schedule with Jenna at 812-338-2924 (English) or 812-365-3221 (Marengo).


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