Mental health experts agree: feeling and expressing gratitude helps anxiety. However, when you live with anxiety, it hardly seems possible that gratitude can lower or help anxiety. For one thing, it can be challenging to find things for which to feel grateful when you’re living in the grips of anxiety. For another, how can being grateful for something help anxiety? Once you know what gratitude is and is not, you can use thankfulness to improve your mental health. Even better, you can get light-hearted (something refreshing when you have anxiety) and play a gratitude game to reduce anxiety.
Know the Depths of Gratitude to Help Anxiety
To claim to be grateful for worrying about everything or having panic attacks not only won’t make the worry and panic disappear, it would be ridiculous. Being appreciative of things in your life doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for having anxiety. It also isn’t a magic wand that will “poof” away anxiety. But gratitude can rewire your brain to experience less anxiety. The effects of gratitude on health can be life-changing.
How gratitude changes your life:
- Gratitude helps you live well in spite of anxiety even though it doesn’t completely remove anxiety.
- Gratitude is a natural awakening of your ability to see past what’s making you anxious, not a feeling that is forced or superficial.
- Gratitude is a way of thinking and being every day, not a mere technique.
- Being grateful is a shift in how you view yourself and the world. It changes your focus from what is wrong to what is right.
Play a Gratitude Game to Help Anxiety
True gratitude is about more than saying thanks. A grateful mindset is developed purposefully and with practice. By playing a gratitude game, you begin to shift your focus away from anxiety and onto other, more positive, aspects of your life.
The game is an ongoing scavenger hunt. You will need:
- The below list (Print it and cut out the individual items or write them down.)
- Something to hold the challenges on the list (Cut them apart and put them in a jar, or glue them on a pack of index cards held together with a ring.)
- Something to record your findings (Use a notebook or journal, or use the pack of index cards.)
This list contains things, people, situations, and concepts to purposefully seek out. These are all positive things for which to be grateful. When you look for things to be thankful for, your thoughts begin to drift away from anxieties. Look for at least one thing every day, and approach it playfully.
Your Gratitude Scavenger Hunt List:
- Unexpected down time (What did you do?)
- Someone who makes you laugh
- Spending time with a friend
- Something that went well today
- A chance to do something nice for someone else
- A personal trait
- Someone who is a positive part of your life
- A cherished photo
- A talent you have
- Writing a letter of gratitude to someone
- Stopping and smelling the roses
- A chance to do something nice for yourself
- Time spent outdoors
- An opportunity to make someone feel heard
- Something that brought a smile to your face today
- A fond memory
- An evening spent with friends/family with no electronics
- Something that someone did for you
- Your ability to perform a random act of kindness
- A teacher who inspired you
- Something someone said to you
- Someone who listened to you
- Hearing someone laugh
The shift of perspective that comes with gratitude helps anxiety because it changes where you look and how you think. It’s a way of beating anxiety at its own game.