Friday, February 23, 2018

Mind Matters: Love is in the air

February 7, 2018 by Cindy Peckham, contributing writer

Ah, l’amour. Nothing brings to mind thoughts of love more than Valentine’s Day. Many people will be increasing their self-love in anticipation of spending the day with that special someone, or just giving themselves an extra pampering because they are single. Whether you find yourself single or attached, or express your love in a more general sense to friends and family, it’s a great day to tell someone how you feel.

But did you know the joys of gift giving, performing acts of kindness, and expressing gratitude have positive mental-health benefits for you, too?

Mind Matters is a column about mental-health issues appearing in every issue of Nexus).

Multiple studies have shown that the act of giving can actually lower a person’s blood pressure and stress levels. It may also cause people to live longer, suffer from less depression, and have better self-esteem.

Additionally, giving to others, especially if the giving is done through volunteerism, can increase a person’s sense of connection to other people and, possibly, to their community. Lastly, doing things for others can also help shift or even improve the perspective people hold about their own lives and problems, helping them to see things in a more positive light.

As for gratitude, the benefits are seemingly endless. But perhaps some of the most profound are that people seem to get sick less often and have increased energy. They get more done and feel more relaxed. They even increase their resilience (“resilience” is just a fancy word for how quickly you recover from life’s stressors).

Finally, and probably most importantly—especially for people facing mental-health challenges—is that being grateful forces a person to look at their life from a positive perspective. It’s simply not possible for thoughts of gratitude to occupy and hold the same space as negative thoughts about the same things. One must make way for the other. And in this case, as with giving, when gratitude replaces negative thoughts it has the power to change the beliefs we hold about our lives, ourselves, and others. It can change a life.

The easiest and fastest way to get started is to keep a daily gratitude journal and record five things you are grateful for every day. You don’t even have to share them. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity, though—the benefits can be felt immediately and are long lasting.

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