Using Gratitude as a Healing Tool

Chances are you are familiar with the term gratitude. Simply put, gratitude is the act of being thankful and grateful for all the positive in one’s life. Showing appreciation for the big and small gifts one encounters on a daily basis. Showing gratitude could obviously shift one’s focus from wanting to appreciating, but can it really make a significant difference in one’s health and well-being?

Without a doubt.

If you are like most people working in a helping profession, you feel stressed. Juggling job duties and deadlines. Dealing with difficult personalities and feeling unappreciated. Seeing the struggles and setbacks of your participants. Trying to create a healthy work/life balance. Hoping you have enough to pay the bills and some cash squirreled away for life’s little surprises.  Residential facilities especially have their own sets of problems–working strange hours, high turnover, low morale.

And on those really bad days, it is hard to be grateful for anything aside from the end of the shift.

So does making everything sunshine, stardust, and rainbows really have an effect? Is this just New Age babble created by some guy making good money writing self-help books? Is there any evidence hanging out on the bright side has any benefits?

You might be surprised.

The folks at created a wonderful page about the benefits of gratitude backed by scientific evidence. They listed 31 benefits with links to supporting studies. Check out their page for a more indepth look.

Here are just a few benefits you and your facility could reap by incorporating gratitude into your lives:

  • Better sleep and relaxation
  • Lower systolic blood pressure
  • Reduced depressive symptoms
  • Better vitality and energy
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Better quality of relationships
  • Increased effectiveness as a manager
  • Increased productivity


Do any of these sound appealing to you?


Three simple ways to incorporate gratitude for you and your facility:

Gratitude for You

Chances are you heard about creating a gratitude journal. Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect and write about your day’s blessings. Science has shown the benefits of doing this, but why not take it one step further?

Hang a small dry erase board in your bedroom and/or workspace. At the end of your day/shift, write a few things that truly made you grateful.  When you wake up in the morning or arrive for your shift, those things will be a visible reminder of the good that happened the day before.

In Your Groups

For an icebreaker or even an entire group, you could bring a couple dice (consider bigger, foamy ones for clients with fine motor or visual difficulties.)  Circle up and have a participant roll two dice. The dice dictates how many gratitude moments the participant will share. To make things more interesting, have the person rolling the dice choose someone else to list their grateful experiences.

At Your Facility

Set out a fishbowl or other type of clear bowl. Encourage residents and staff to write things they are thankful for on a small paper and put it in the bowl. By using a clear bowl, everyone passing by could see the papers multiplying in the bowl. At the end of the week/month make a small handout or newsletter listing everything written on those papers. You could even include a short narrative of a willing participant.


“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward


Just as someone doesn’t learn to run before they could walk, one doesn’t change the way they perceive the world before taking steps to change small thoughts one has each day.  Adding small doses of gratitude to groups and creating an environment of appreciation is definitely a worthwhile pursuit. It may not solve all the problems of your facility, but it could begin a culture where thankfulness replaces bellyaching and relationships are strengthened.


How do you incorporate gratitude into your day?


What ways do you employ gratitude for your participants?





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