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Mental Moment: Gratitude list

A simple mental wellness exercise that’s rooted in the things you’re grateful for
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Writing a gratitude list can help improve your wellbeing. WOKANDPIX AT PIXABAY/CC WIKIMEDIA
Writing a gratitude list can help improve your wellbeing. WOKANDPIX AT PIXABAY/CC WIKIMEDIA

Whether it feels like it’s racing at a million miles per hour or halted to an uncomfortable snail pace, life has a proclivity for throwing us into tail spins of emotion. It is in times like these that it is important to ground ourselves before getting lost in negative emotions and thoughts. 

Personally, I’ve always gravitated toward exercise, friends, or meditation to help myself reset, but this past year, my girlfriend showed me a wellness exercise that has become my new go-to. She told me to write out what I was grateful for — in other words, write a gratitude list. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, down, or disconnected, I take a few minutes to sit down and make a list of whatever I am grateful for in my life. 

At first it sounded far too simple to be effective, but once I tried it and put some thought into it, I realized how it helped shift my mindset. By the end of these little sessions, I would be feeling a bit more hopeful and thankful, and the lens I was looking at life through would become a little brighter. 

The entries can range from something as basic as “having a roof over my head,” to something more particular, like “an old friend recently reached out and asked to catch up.” You find that the longer you spend, the easier and easier it gets to write out points. You can list out anything, from people to places to events to qualities about yourself that you are grateful for. 

It may even get tough to narrow down one thing to write about, and by that point, I usually find that it’s hard to look at any glass as half empty. You can even write on a theme instead of a specific topic. If you’re a student, write about what it is in school that you’re grateful for. Maybe you have a course you really like, or you recently did better than expected on a midterm that you studied hard for, or you have a class with a good friend this semester. If you are an athlete, you can write about what you’re grateful for in your sport — maybe you had a really good practice, or you’re excited for an upcoming game, or you’ve improved on a skill!

Some days I only spend five minutes on my gratitude list, and other days, I can spend a half hour elaborating on my points and taking time to reflect. This is also what makes gratitude lists so easy to implement. You can schedule a nice long session for the end of your night, or if you’re in a rush, you can use whatever few minutes you have, between classes or on the subway, to jot down whatever you’re thankful for.

Gratitude lists are associated with positive mental health results, such as decreased anxiety and improved mood. These compounding effects may even improve your immune system. Gratitude journalling is a great way to not only reflect on the positives in your life but also to improve your overall well-being. It may not always be as potently effective as I described, but it is so easy that it is worth a shot. A few minutes of scribbling down words could really brighten your day.