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Gratitude as an Emotion

Gratitude During the Thanksgiving Season

by Heather and David Morris, LCSW

Gratitude missing in this movie?

Gratitude missing in this movie?

Do you remember this great movie? The “Inside Out” movie led to a great discussion about emotions that even our young child could understand. If you recall, 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.

My wife and I started to wonder, “isn’t there an emotion missing in this movie?”. Why was gratitude was not added as a character? 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. 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 new directions counselingConsider these 5 Ways to Incorporate Gratitude in Your Life:

  1. Write a Note – communicate in some way to a person how much you appreciate them. The beauty of our technology is a snap chat, text, instagram caption or email can be easily sent.
  2. Hesitate while Eating – delay before your consume food and appreciate its abundance. Focus on its saltiness, sweetness, texture and smell.
  3. Hone in on the Basics  – start with your waking. Be grateful for your pillow, the sheets, the mattress and the warmth of your blanket. Imagine life without them and be thankful you have comfort each day.
  4. Notice the Moments – each day something is happening. A bird chirps, trees bend to the wind, a lamp has shade design, and life has its textures. Once you spend a moment to notice, life can slow down.
  5. Complex Gratefulness – take a look at your phone. You need electricity to charge it, money to pay for it, wireless to get online. How are these things possible? Maybe you educated yourself. Perhaps you have a good job. Someone encouraged you to do what you love. These all come back to having the easy access to phones and information. Allow yourself to be grateful for your situation.

The move Inside Out provides a 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.

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 and build your gratitude. Give us a call today 724.934.3905