It can be hard to see the words trauma work and gratitude in the same sentence.
Trauma can be devastating to the sense of self, and be of extreme detriment to forming healthy relationships and experiencing the life you want to have.
Trauma work is a difficult process but one of the few mental disorders that can actually be resolved completely.
One of the best tools for working through trauma is by pairing trauma work with gratitude practices.
Today we are going to take a look at trauma work and strategies to introduce gratitude into your weekly practices.
Trauma has a major impact on self-perception, safety of the world, startle response, relationship patterns, and cognitive patterns of the brain.
Essentially, trauma can impact virtually every aspect of your life.
This is why, for some people, after a traumatic event they feel like they aren't the same person, and in many ways, they truly aren't.
Trauma work is the systematic approach to exploring the traumatic event in detail as a means of helping the mind understand what happened, why, and what that means about the individual who survived it.
Depending on how ready the individual is to take that step and look directly at what happened to them, this process can happen in a matter of weeks to several months, to several years.
One of the major components of trauma is the amount of negative thinking it creates in the individual.
Intrusive thoughts, critical self-analysis, negative thinking about the world at large... the list goes on.
Unfortunately, that mode of thinking isn't helpful.
In fact, it makes things even worse.
That's where gratitude practice comes in.
Gratitude means thankfulness.
It's the feeling you have for the people and things in your life that bring you joy.
Everyone has things they are grateful for, but sometimes it can be hard to recognize them.
Often what we are most grateful for (or should be) are the very things we take for granted every single day.
The ability to breathe, walk, smile, see, and laugh.
It's easy to overlook these simple things because we're so used to them.
We expect them.
Maybe you've found yourself in a dangerous situation and then seen a friendly face, or are completely unprepared for a major test that suddenly gets canceled.
That's a feeling of relief mixed with joy, that's gratitude.
Having a regular gratitude practice and shown to significantly decrease the negative impact of trauma and contributes to faster recovery from trauma work as well as increases optimism about the future.
It has also been proven to decrease inflammation which decreased the risk of heart disease to the same extent that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) does.
It's remarkably healing to both body and mind.
So, how can you start a gratitude practice?
There are a ton of gratitude practices out there but here I will discuss my favorite 3.
If you don't see practice you can connect with below, then hop on Google and see what else is out there.
1) Gratitude List: This one is easy, take out a sheet of paper and a pen and list everything you have to be thankful for 15 minutes, then re-read your list thinking about each item specifically when you felt grateful for that item.
2) Reflecting on Experience: Once or twice a week, think back to a specific time you felt grateful and reflect on who was there, what happened, and why you were grateful; really let yourself sink into the memory and connect with the emotion of that moment and how you felt afterward.
3) Find Stories of Gratitude: If you just can't think of anything you're grateful for, search on Youtube of Google for stories of people who are grateful; learn about their experiences and hardships and listen to their stories of gratitude.
Notice that none of these are directly connected to trauma work.
That's because you can get the benefits even without directly connecting your trauma to what you are grateful for.
If you are having a hard time starting trauma work, start implementing gratitude practices first and notice the change in your ability to approach difficult memories.
Trauma work is intimidating and difficult.
But, paired with gratitude exercises you'll find yourself more capable than you realize.
We looked at multiple types of gratitude practice, but there are many more creative ways of engaging in gratitude.
Simply do a quick search online and you'll find one that suits you best.
A few minutes every week of gratitude can make monumental changes in your level of stress, negative emotions, and even physical health.
It decreased inflammation and negative thinking while developing positive emotions and increases optimism.
So, start your practice today, however, that practice looks, and start reaping the benefits of the power of gratitude.
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It is my primary goal as a counselor to create a space for every individual to explore their lives and find the opportunities that may be lurking where it is most difficult to look. Through a unique therapeutic approach that combines Jungian symbology/dream-work with Narrative and Existential explorations, I will help you re-discover who you are. It is my mission to help you navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety, faith-based and spiritual concerns, as well as how to re-establish a connection with what is most important to you.
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