The power of gratitude to improve mental and emotional health

We're dedicating today's post to taking a look back at the projects that shaped our year in the very best way.

Andrew Williams (NE Director at The United Project) used the initial period of isolation to practice the mental health strategy of spending a month in gratitude. Over the month of March, Andrew wrote a card each day - a total of 31 cards - to various people in his life, past and present, to express his appreciation and gratitude for their influence on his life. Some cards were hard to write and others much easier. Importantly, what Andrew felt was an overwhelming sense of pleasure and connection, both as he wrote the cards, and also upon receiving feedback from those who received a card.

Andrew says that his gratitude practice set him on a path of better understanding gratitude, and was a great way to improve his own mental and emotional health.

For those that may not have experience with gratitude, it has number of definitions. The Harvard Medical Centre defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible”.

The key word here is appreciation - it is being appreciative for what is received. It can be tangible, such as a gift from a friend, an act of service from a loved one or a new job opportunity. It can also be intangible, such as sunshine, being able to walk in nature, being healthy, snuggling up under a doona on a cold or a wet winter’s morning.

When one experiences gratitude, they are experiencing the goodness of life.

Gratitude is not just about receiving and appreciating. The positive emotions derived from gratitude can also be felt when one shows appreciation and gratitude towards others. It tends to be unconditional. When gratitude is expressed, one is not looking for something in return, they are merely giving of themselves to someone else. However, what is lovely about gratitude is that it is contagious. It encourages others to be grateful and see what’s positive in their own life. It makes people feel good and helps us to feel more connected. Gratitude is so important in managing our mental health and is a great mental health strategy to incorporate into everyday life.

Research highlights that practicing gratitude can deepen our relationships and connections, it can improve our wellbeing and general optimism, and it can also enhance our physical and mental health.

So, what are some simple ways we can practice gratitude?

  1. Thoughtful actions. Most people like thoughtful gestures. To practice gratitude, try generating some thoughtful actions that show appreciation for others. It doesn’t need to be a large action - it could be a simple email or text to say hello, sending some flowers, cooking a meal for someone in the neighbourhood, or bringing in their bins. Whatever it is, it is driven by appreciation for that person.

  2. Deeply listen to someone else. Being present and listening deeply to someone sends a clear message that you are interested in what they have to say and that what they are discussing is valued. This creates a safe space to show appreciation and display gratitude. The best way to show gratitude to others is by deeply listening to them and creating a safe space for them to open up.


Would you like to establish a culture of gratitude across your teams? Please read more about our Team United Development Program and feel free to get in touch.