Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

Anxiety can have a number of physical symptoms, and it can wreak havoc on all areas of your life. Much of anxiety’s cause and its intensifiers are in the brain, however.

No, I’m not saying it’s all in your head.

What I do want you to understand is that your mind plays a powerful role in both the way the condition is created and the manner in which it plays out. Therefore, you can use mental strategies to control and tame this terrible beast.

Let’s look at how gratitude fights anxiety.

A number of studies have demonstrated the benefits of gratitude on the body and the mind. Demonstrating gratitude can actually decrease physical pain and improve sleep. It can lead to more optimistic thoughts, which influence more positive behaviors. The connection between thoughts and the resulting actions or behaviors is a strong one.

In fact, thoughts of gratitude have been proven to stimulate the hypothalamus. This region of the brains controls functions like metabolism, stress and sleep. In addition, being grateful can trigger regions of the brain that produce the feel-good neurochemical, dopamine.

As we just learned, healthy sleep patterns are significant in overcoming anxious patterns and depression. Positive behaviors can lead you to simply feel better about yourself and more productive.

When you get more done, you’re likely less anxious about the consequences of not doing so and you worry less. Feeling optimistic and thankful doesn’t leave room for the negative emotions of anxiousness or sadness. Forming a habit of gratitude begins a cycle that changes your perspective, and maybe even your life.

So how can you get started on this journey to being more grateful?

Really, there’s no end to the possibilities, but I’m happy to throw out some suggestions to get you started. You’ll find that being grateful is a habit that gets easier with practice. Once you start, you’ll probably notice yourself looking on the bright side and feeling thankful for what you have far more frequently than you did in the past.

One of the easiest ways to feel thankful is to actually thank someone. It can be as simple as a verbal acknowledgment during your day when someone does something for you or you can delve deeper by writing a heartfelt note to a meaningful friend or loved one.

Another strategy is to examine your week and take note of at least three things that were wonderful or that went well. It’s human nature to look at the negative. Make a concerted effort to turn that around by recognizing the awesome stuff, too. You’ll see things really may not be as bad as they seem. One last suggestion is to demonstrate acts of kindness. See who you can help this week and make a note of it. Helping others has a way of showing us just how many good things we possess.

Who knew something as simple as being grateful could have such an effect on lessening anxiety? This practice may not come easily right away, but it’s definitely worth the effort to make gratitude a habit if you want to feel less anxious.

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