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Gratitude Inside Out Movie

Gratitude and Inside Out Movie
by Heather D. Morris, LCSW

Gratitude missing in this movie?

Gratitude missing in this movie?

I recently watched the movie Inside Out with my children and it led to a great discussion about emotions that even my young child could understand. In the movie, a young girl moves across the country to a new home, new school, and new neighborhood leaving behind the only life she has ever known. As she adjusts to all of the changes, the viewer gets an inside view of her brain as it personifies the emotions of joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.  Spoiler alert: the conclusion of the movie is that joy and sadness are often closely intertwined and no emotion is bad.

What a great reminder for adults and children alike that anger, fear, and sadness are not bad emotions. They have a purpose. Fear can help to keep us out of danger. Sadness helps us to grieve losses and gives us empathy towards others. Anger can indicate  injustice and motivate us to change. In balance, these emotions are perfectly healthy but as the movie demonstrates, we don’t want just one emotion to “run the show”. The movie missed an opportunity to show that we are in control of our feelings. We can accept our emotions by reducing our reaction to them. We  can guide our emotions by the thoughts we have and the actions we choose. For example, the main character in the movie, Riley, had a memory of losing an important hockey game. When she thought about the missed goal which lost the game she felt sad but when her thoughts shifted to her parents and teammates comforting her after the hockey game she felt joy.  Her different thoughts about the same event produced two different emotions.

I wonder why an important emotion like gratitude was not added as a character? Our western culture does not promote thankfulness, instead the media and culture tell us we always need more. If there is a sequel to Inside Out, I would love to see the character of gratitude added. Gratitude is an often ignored emotion that can have very positive effects on our health and well being. Research shows that gratitude is positively associated with physical health, mental health, coping with stress, optimism, and contentment.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate gratitude in your own life, consider writing a note of appreciation to someone important to you.  Hesitate before your consume food and appreciate its abundance. Meditate on the things you have to be grateful for when you first wake up in the morning.  Set the tone for a better day by noticing the pleasant moments.

If you feel the emotions of anger, sadness, fear and anxiety are taking control of your life, we have caring and empathic therapists at New Directions that can start from the inside out or the outside in. Give us a call today.