What is anxiety?
Put simply, anxiety is generally a response to stress, yet there is a difference between the two. It comes from an imbalance of activity in the emotional centers of the brain instead of the cognitive centers. This is why anxiety can become overbearing and sometimes illogical. The mind is so focused on the negative emotions that it doesn’t generate proper responses to stress because there is little reasoning.
Why does the future cause anxiety?
Anxiety about the future, also known as anticipatory anxiety, is generally a symptom of other disorders like generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. For some people, anticipatory anxiety is based on a fear of having a panic attack in a situation, and for others, it is surrounded by the idea of leaving the comfort of one’s home. Feeling stressed or anxious about the future is normal in moderation, but for many, it inhibits their ability to live their lives and causes an excessive amount of anxiety.
“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year”Anxiety and Depression Association of America
What does practicing gratitude do, and why does it matter?
Practicing an act of gratitude has also been shown to reduce anxiety in an Italian study by Nicola Petrocchi & Alessandro Couyoumdjian. They found that gratitude “is connected to a less critical, less punishing, and more compassionate relationship with the self” and “being grateful renders individuals more prone to show kindness, comprehension, support, and compassion toward themselves when setbacks and frustrations occur.” When a student gets rejected from a dream school, or a person doesn’t get the job they had hoped for, it is important to show kindness and compassion towards themselves and gratitude is one easy way to do that. Practicing gratitude can also allow people to accept changes in their lives and even improve physical health.
I have built a prototype for an interactive gratitude journal that can be completed online or can be handwritten. This journal will include daily practices of gratitude– whether it is a list of things a person is grateful for that day or a prompt to write a letter of gratitude to a loved one– along with inspirational quotes, guided mindfulness, and personal stories or experiences from others. Each practice has an important purpose in helping decrease anxiety.
As mentioned above, practicing gratitude decreases stress levels, improves mental health, and can make a person overall happier. Gratitude can also help a person stay in the present, which limits the worry about the future and what may be undecided or upcoming. In the example below, the practice of gratitude is writing down three things a person is grateful for that day, but other examples include: writing a gratitude journal entry, expressing gratitude to 5 people throughout the day, or meditating (here is a link to more practices if you are interested). The next step of the journal is to write down one goal for that day, no matter the scale; it could be to fold laundry or finish a college application. These goals should be a task that can be accomplished that day to feel a sense of control and organization, both of which can be forgotten when anxious. Though it is incredibly important to focus on the present when a person is anxious about the future, it is important to have something positive to look forward to which explains the next question. Finally, this example shows a recommended mindfulness practice for that day, which is meditating for 5-15 minutes, and two quotes to remember throughout the day.
I have struggled with my mental health for a while now, yet anxiety generally has been the most overbearing in my life. I have worried about getting accepted into a “good enough college” since 6th grade, and I have been anxious about the future for as long as I can remember. This project not only has the intent of helping others but helping myself because this semester I have learned that there is a good kind of selfishness and it is helping yourself. I hope that you take these practices of gratitude and apply them to your life, even if you do not have anxiety, as they can help your overall well-being and outlook on life. I have been practicing gratitude daily for a few months now and I have seen an improvement in my mental health.
Hi! I would love to hear your feedback or any questions that you have in the comments below or in the survey, and if you tried any of the practices let me know what you thought of them!Loading…