Can Practicing Gratitude Provide Anxiety Relief?

Author: Brent Sweitzer
Original Post Date: June 16, 2022

A woman smiles as she reflects on her life with gratitude. A gratitude practice can help relieve anxiety and stress.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that we all experience. And we’ve all collectively been through a period of time (a global pandemic) that is as anxiety-provoking as any mass experience I can imagine. To feel anxious, especially during a time like this, means to be alive! 

There are many techniques available for anxiety relief, ranging from medication and psychotherapy to practicing mindful meditation and engaging in physical exercise. Today I’d like to introduce you to an empirically validated anxiety and depression reduction technique that is available to all of us — quickly, easily, and completely free. That technique is practicing gratitude.

We are Wired to Be Anxious

The human brain is wired for anxiety. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have made significant contributions to mental health by discovering the role that anxiety has played in making us the dominant species. Our brains are attuned to pay attention to threats and to mobilize when we perceive danger. This was helpful back when a rustling in the woods could mean that a lion was about to attack, and it still plays an important role as we navigate our world today.

But problems occur when anxiety becomes overwhelming or disrupts the normal functioning of life.

Simply knowing that anxiety is part of being human can provide us with a considerable amount of relief and self-acceptance. Because we are biologically programmed to focus on our perceived threats, it is an automatic tendency to fixate on what’s wrong, not working, or not the way we want it to be, often losing sight of all of the good things in our lives.

Looking for anxiety relief, a man sits quietly and practices gratitude. Brent Sweitzer teaches anxiety reduction techniques through individual and couples counseling in Cumming GA.

Gratitude for Anxiety Relief

So what happens if we make a conscious shift away from our natural tendency to fixate on what’s wrong and instead we deliberately practice focusing on the good? If you guessed “anxiety relief,” you are correct!

The role of gratitude has been researched and explored extensively in social science research in recent decades. And while it’s easy to dismiss this as simplistic or “new agey,” when it comes to anxiety relief and improvement in overall happiness and wellbeing, gratitude works!

What does a gratitude practice look like? The simplest thing is to create a gratitude journal where you write down on a weekly or daily basis, two or three things in your life for which you are grateful. It can be a person or relationship (or even your relationship with yourself), your health, things that bring you physical comfort, etc. Like the age-old act of counting one’s blessing, intentionally practicing gratitude has measurably shown to boost mood, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve interpersonal relationships.

You can also write letters of gratitude to people or things in your life. You don’t have to send the letters – research has shown just the act of expressing your gratitude does the trick. Our goal is to shift our default state from worry and fear to gratitude. 

A woman writes in a gratitude journal while drinking a cup of coffee. Practicing gratitude is proven to provide anxiety relief. Sweitzer Counseling shows you how.

How I Practice Gratitude for Anxiety Relief 

I need to look no further than my own life to know that a gratitude practice works! I have created checklists to center my mind that I review every morning when I wake up and every evening before bed. One of the questions I have on my evening checklist is what am I grateful for that day. 

Often, my answers are my wife and children and the relationship we share. Other times I reflect on my physical or mental health, something rewarding that happened that day, something new I learned, or an exchange I had with a stranger or friend. Sometimes I express gratitude for material comforts, such as the roof over my head or the car I drive, but I always find that the people bring me a deeper sense of gratitude than the “things!”

Incorporating a gratitude practice into my life daily has shifted the way I think. I like to think I am consistently rewiring my brain in a way that emphasizes the positive, and the results have been nothing sort of profound – including anxiety relief! Learn my three favorite gratitude practice techniques.

Granddaughter and grandmother smile while sharing an embrace. Being grateful for the people in our life is a clinically proven to relieve anxiety

Gratitude is NOT Toxic Positivity

I want to be clear that I am not promoting what we’ve come to call “toxic positivity,” and ignoring the reality of what’s tough in life. I will always be a champion of expressing feelings. In fact, I’ve devoted my life to helping people tune into their feelings, even those that are difficult and painful. If you would like to read more about feelings, I encourage you to read several earlier blog posts

It’s Okay to Need Help

Though I truly believe that a gratitude practice is beneficial to everyone, I also know that it is often not enough. If you are experiencing anxiety or stress that is making your daily life difficult, please reach out to someone who is trained to help. If you live in the Cumming, Johns Creek or Alpharetta areas of Georgia, please reach out to me. I would love to talk with you.

The Bottom Line

It’s exciting to know that we can expand beyond our default state and not be dictated by our circumstances. Though we are hard-wired for a certain amount of anxiety, the practice of gratitude has the power to elevate us to be more present in the moment and to be a better version of ourselves. It enables us to be more self-reflective and less reactive with ourselves and in our relationships. And when we can see what’s good in our lives in the midst of difficult and trying times, we can, over time, experience authentic joy in the living of life itself.

Start your gratitude practice today!

STEPS TO HEALING

Begin Your Individual Counseling Journey

You don’t have to continue suffering through relationship difficulties, stress, anxiety and grief. Individual counseling can help you feel better and get back to being yourself. My Cumming counseling office is conveniently located off of Rte. 400 and I have daytime and evening hours available.

To start your individual counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

1

Reach Out

Call me or fill out this form so we can schedule a free 20 minute consultation. This helps you make sure there’s a fit between what you’re wanting to get out of counseling and my skills & approach.

2

Begin Counseling

Once you decide to begin counseling, you’ll fill out the initial paperwork securely using the client portal. We will meet and begin the therapeutic counseling journey together.

3

Experience Relief

Through your counseling sessions, you will start working on your healing — experiencing shifts, progress, and relief as you go.

OTHER THERAPY SERVICES

Individual Counseling isn’t the only service I provide at my Cumming Counseling office.

I also help parents and children using play therapy, offer teen therapy, premarital counseling, and couples counseling.

Teens

  • Navigate peer struggles
  • Assert their independence without doing harm
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Cope with challenges at home

 

Couples

  • Heal from affairs
  • Improve communication
  • Increase intimacy and closeness
  • Navigate the challenges of blending families

 

Kids

  • Increase their self esteem
  • Cope with parents’ divorce
  • Lift depression and reduce stress & anxiety
  • Manage the emotional impact of ADHD

 

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