Mental Health Month: Challenge 2 Thoughts of Gratitude

Ready for your next challenge for Mental Health Month? Great!! This week’s challenge focuses on the thoughts we have. As we go about our daily lives it can be easy to forget the positive experiences we have. Life on a day-to-day basis isn’t about winning the lottery or buying a new car or landing your dream job. Life from day-to-day is about smaller things, a smile that brightened your day, one last big hug from your child before he or she heads off to school, and getting a work assignment done and checked off your list of to-do’s.

Gratitude is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the state of being grateful; thankfulness” (from We can be thankful for any of a number of big and small moments and my goal is to help you improve your mental health by taking notice of the wide range of positive experiences. Taking note of that which we are grateful for is associated with increased mental well-being.

It is easy to miss these small moments as we wait, pray, and/or hope for “bigger” moments to occur. So I challenge you to start taking notice of, and being thankful for, these small moments in your everyday life. As a guide, you can download this free Thoughts of Gratitude Worksheet to help you keep track of the things in your life you are thankful for. At the beginning of the day you can write down those events for the day  you are looking forward to and are thankful for (for example, a job opportunity, great weather, family time, etc.). You also have the option at the end of the day to record events that had occurred that day that were positive. For bonus points you can fill out your Thoughts of Gratitude Worksheet both day and night!!

So I challenge you to record at least once a day those things that you are grateful for in your life.

Faith and Mental Health: Cleanse the Lens

With today being Easter Sunday, I deem it only fitting for today’s post to tackle faith and mental health. Now, if you are not a spiritual person or if you are not a person of faith, don’t exit out of this page. The analogy that I use still pertains to you. So please, read on.

Princeton University Chapel. Copyright Cindy T. Graham, Ph.D.

There have been many times in my life, after getting to know me for some time, people were surprised to know that I am a born-again Christian. Mainly because I am such a strong advocate of evidence-based treatment methods for mental illness people tend to assume that I can’t be religious. Some of you reading this are probably wondering how I am able to rectify the two. How can I be a Christian and believe in science and scientific method. Quite easily, actually. The pastor at the church I attend explained it quite well a couple of weeks ago during his sermon when he said,

“The best I can do is to cleanse the lens that the Light shines through.”

Inside the Chapel at Princeton. Copyright Cindy T. Graham, Ph.D.

Believers know the Light makes reference to Jesus Christ and He is the light that shines through us once we have accepted Him. The lens represents us. How we cleanse that lens pertains to what we do to maintain our overall wellness. Do nothing and the lens becomes smeared, cloudy, lacking in the sharp detail it is meant to have. Use the wrong kind of cleaning supplies and you can still have a lint-filled, streaky and obscured lens.  Some events in our lives will leave next-to-no marks on your lens. Some events will leave behind finger prints, dust, dirt, grime…the list goes on.

You certainly could walk around like that. With a dirty lens. Squinting. Struggling to see clearly. You may bump into things or you may stop in your tracks. You may even try to figure out a way to get a new set of lenses. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, I think we can all agree that nobody wants to have dirty lenses. Everybody wants to move forward and live a life with as much clarity as possible. And this means you have to clean your lens.

Copyright Cindy T. Graham, Ph.D.

Sometimes you can use just a cloth to get the job done. Sometimes you have to fog it up with your breath to get some of the more oily streaks off. And sometimes, you have to break out the special cloth, the nice one that gets your lenses super, crystal clear and doesn’t leave behind any lint. It is the same with life. Sometimes you can “clean up” what you are going through by talking to a friend, going for walk, praying, etc. And then you are back on your way to living your life with clarity. But sometimes you will need a little bit more.

And this is where psychotherapy comes in. Psychotherapy is by no means the only method for getting the smudges off of our lenses. Psychotherapy is one of many possible tools at our disposal to help us get some clarity back in our life. If you have gotten to a place in your life where you are no longer able to live with clarity, you owe it to yourself to seek out those methods available to help you get to a place of better wellness. Therapy is one of those really great cleaning cloths that get the stubborn smears off your lenses.

So whether you are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ or whether you are enjoying another day of spring, why not make a decision to do what you can to live your life with clarity? Make a commitment to do your best to cleanse the lens that lets the light shine through.