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Although nearly everyone experiences the demands, pressures and expectations of the holiday season in different ways, people with mental health issues often have a harder time coping with those issues. Many people feel let down when the holidays don’t live up to their idea of how the season is supposed to go. Not everyone’s holiday season looks like a Norman Rockwell painting with carolers singing, postal workers delivering presents and friends and family arriving to share good times.

One way to combat the downhearted feeling is to exchange it for gratitude. Expressing gratitude for those around you not only makes you happy, but also the people around you.

Research shows feelings of gratitude can lead to more positive emotions including enthusiasm, happiness and determination.

Those who show and feel appreciation often see an increase in their physical health and their mental outlook.

Gratitude is the foundation of self-worth, and expressing graciousness and gratefulness for someone can help build up that foundation. That’s especially important for people with mental illnesses, since they often have a tougher time dealing with adversity and disappointment.

By expressing the thankfulness you feel for your loved ones, you can better your chances of an enjoyable holiday season. Gratitude can be as simple as telling someone you love them and are thankful for them, doing something small but meaningful for them, or just letting them know you are there for them if they need anything.

The positive feelings of gratitude can help people — including those with mental illness — build a positive and optimistic outlook for the future and enjoy the holiday season with less pressure and strain. It’s a tiny little step that can reap great benefits, so find time amidst your holiday shopping and decorating to express your gratitude to others.

Mike Vizena is executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards.

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