Struggling with depression and anxiety makes it hard (sometimes impossible) to focus on the positive. (Actually, focusing on the positive is hard for everyone according to neuroscience, thanks to our brains’ negativity bias.) One way I’ve increased my capacity to feel and be grateful is by keeping a Gratitude Journal. Each day for the last five years, I’ve captured in writing at least three things for which I’m thankful. It’s one of the practices that drastically reduced my symptoms of depression and anxiety and greatly improved my overall sense of well-being.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal is not for everyone, of course; but studies keep showing that practicing gratitude is. If you want more information on gratitude – and particularly musicians and gratitude – check out our long-form article on practicing gratitude as a musician here.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is based on the acceptance of two general ideas:
- There are good and valuable things in life, and
- The experience of appreciating these things is free.
What Is Gratitude Practice?
Practicing gratitude is a way to shift our focus from the negative to the positive. It comes down to:
- Taking the time to notice things we’re thankful for, and
- Reflect on them.
Gratitude Practice for Musicians (and Everyone)
The benefits of gratitude practice are numerous, and the coolest part is that the benefits accrue. The longer we practice gratitude, the more we develop a capacity to experience gratitude.
Studies find that gratitude practice benefits us in many ways, and they split the benefits up into five categories: Emotional, Social, Personality, Career, and Health.
- Improves overall psychological well-being
- Makes us happier for the long-term
- Enhances resiliency
- Increases positive emotions
- Decreases negative emotions
- Shifts our focus away from negative, toxic emotions over to positive ones
- Enhances our sensitivity to future positive experiences
- Serves as a protective factor against suicidal thoughts and actions
- Improves relationships
- Increases trustworthiness
- Enhances sociability
- Encourages relationships to thrive
- Grows our social networks
- Helps us feel and think in a more gracious way
- Decreases self-centeredness
- Increases generosity
- Reduces materialism
- Supports a greater overall satisfaction with life
- Enhances motivation
- Improves productivity
- Helps us better manage our work
- Improves our leadership skills
- Enhances our ability to inspire motivation in others
- Improves decision-making
- Decreases impatience
- Reduces stress levels
- Decreases likelihood of burnout
- Improves overall health
- Decreases blood pressure
- Enhances sleep quality
- Reduces fatigue
- Increases our likelihood of exercise
- Decreases levels of cellular inflammation
- Aids in the recovery of substance misuse
- Aids in the recovery of depression
How to Develop a Gratitude Practice
Follow these three steps to get started:
- Decide to start
- Commit to a frequency
- Experiment with different methods until you find one that you like
Methods of Practicing Gratitude
These are just some of the methods that can help you to notice and reflect on the things you’re grateful for:
- Giving thanks when you wake up
- Giving thanks when you go to bed
- Writing in a Gratitude Journal
- Creating a Gratitude Jar or Board
- Writing Gratitude Letters (or emails, posts, etc.)
- Creating Gratitude Art (songs, paintings, sculpture)
- Practicing Gratitude Meditation
- Practicing Gratitude Affirmations
- Saying “Thank You” more often
Learn More About Practicing Gratitude
Check out our long-form article on Practicing Gratitude as a Musician, read the articles listed below, and do a YouTube search to find lots of info on the benefits of practicing gratitude and how to do it. Thank you for reading, and good luck with your gratitude practice!
“What is Gratitude?” Gratefulness.org
“How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” Greater Good Magazine
“How Gratitude can Make you a Better Musician,” ReverbNation Blog
“14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude,” PositivePsychology.com
“28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings,” PositivePsychology.com
“Gratitude,” Psychology Today
“Five Insights on Gratitude,” Psychology Today
“How to Develop a Gratitude Mindset,” The Chopra Center
Friendly reminder: Of Music and Mind content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the assistance of qualified providers (such as some of those found on the Resources page) with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions.