The Ripple Effect of Thankfulness: Transforming Lives in Nebraska

Kindness rock found at Eagle Scout Lake in Grand Island, Nebraska, with painted inspirational message.

As November unfurls, there’s more to this season than just falling leaves and shorter days. It’s a time for reflection and a perfect opportunity to dive into the profound theme of thankfulness, and discover its transformative power. Beyond a time-limited challenge, thankfulness has the potential to create a profound ripple effect in the lives of Nebraskans and beyond.

The Science of Thankfulness

Gratitude isn’t merely a fleeting emotion; it’s a complex psychological concept with tangible benefits. Studies have shown that thankfulness can profoundly impact our lives. So, what’s the science behind it?

Practicing gratitude isn’t just about feeling good; it’s about improving mental health. By shifting our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance in our lives, gratitude reduces stress, enhances mood, and combats anxiety and depression. It’s a mental and emotional reset button that can lead to increased happiness and a more positive outlook.

Gratitude’s impact doesn’t stop at mental well-being. It has been linked to a strengthened immune system, better sleep, and even reduced perception of pain. The physical benefits of gratitude are a reflection of the positive, balanced state of mind it fosters.

Cultivating a Grateful Heart

The beauty of thankfulness is that it requires no challenge, no time constraints, and no limits. It’s a lifelong practice available every day. Here’s how you can make it a part of your life:

  1. Daily Reflection: Dedicate a few moments each day to contemplate the things you’re thankful for. It could be the warmth of the sun on a chilly Nebraska morning or a comforting cup of coffee.
  2. Express Your Appreciation: Share your gratitude with those around you. Let the people in your life know how much you value them and the positive influence they’ve had on you.
  3. Gratitude Journal: Keeping a journal of daily gratitude can reinforce positivity and provide a record of your journey.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine. Heighten your awareness of the present moment and the countless reasons to be thankful.

The Ripple Effect of Thankfulness in Nebraska

One of the most remarkable qualities of gratitude is its potential to initiate a ripple effect that reaches far beyond our individual lives. Our expressions of thankfulness can extend to strengthen bonds, deepen connections, and build a sense of community. The impact of a single act of gratitude can reach far and wide. It will inspire others to practice gratitude and, in turn, influence more individuals.

Online Counseling and Coaching in Nebraska

As we journey into the depths of thankfulness, remember that your well-being is a priority. If you find that you need additional support or guidance in your pursuit of a more fulfilled life, Blue Elephant Counseling is here for you. Our team of compassionate professionals offers online counseling and coaching services to help Nebraskans navigate life’s challenges, cultivate gratitude, and find their inner resilience. Visit to explore ways to boost your mental well-being, achieve your goals, and maintain a balanced and grateful life.

This November, let’s embrace thankfulness as a year-round practice, not limited by challenges or timeframes. It’s a journey that not only transforms our lives but also spreads positivity, nurtures resilience, and fosters a culture of appreciation in the Cornhusker State and beyond. Start today, and let the ripples of thankfulness touch the lives of Nebraskans.

rear view of woman with arms raised at beach during sunset
Blog, Blog Post Thursday

The Science of Gratitude: How Thankfulness Can Transform Your Life

A joyful woman stands with her arms out wide, embodying the sense of freedom and happiness that practicing gratitude can bring into one's life
Photo by Oleksandr P on

Gratitude isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling—it’s a scientifically proven key to better mental and physical health. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the science of gratitude, the research behind gratitude, and explore how regularly expressing thankfulness can be a transformative force in your life. Get ready to discover the tangible benefits of practicing gratitude and why it’s more than just a November trend.

1. The Psychology of Gratitude Gratitude is Deeply Rooted in Science.

Gratitude is not merely a polite social gesture; it’s a profound psychological concept that has been extensively studied. Let’s explore the two psychological theories that explain why gratitude is so powerful: positive psychology and self-determination theory.

Positive Psychology and Gratitude:

Positive psychology is a field that focuses on the study of positive emotions, strengths, and factors that contribute to a fulfilling life. The Science of Gratitude plays a central role in positive psychology for several reasons:

  • Positive Emotions: Gratitude is inherently tied to positive emotions. When we express gratitude, we experience feelings of happiness, joy, and contentment. This is why practicing gratitude can lead to an overall improvement in one’s emotional well-being.
  • Strengths and Virtues: In positive psychology, gratitude is considered one of the 24 character strengths and virtues. It’s seen as a moral and social strength that contributes to the well-being of both individuals and society as a whole.
  • Resilience: Gratitude increases resilience in the face of adversity. When people practice gratitude, they are better equipped to cope with stress and challenging situations, making them more psychologically resilient.

Self-Determination Theory and Gratitude:

Self-determination theory is another psychological framework that sheds light on the importance of gratitude:

  • Basic Psychological Needs: This theory posits that individuals have three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Practicing gratitude satisfies the need for relatedness. When we express gratitude, we acknowledge and strengthen our social connections, fulfilling one of these fundamental needs.
  • Intrinsic Motivation: Gratitude can also enhance intrinsic motivation, which is the motivation to engage in activities for the inherent enjoyment rather than external rewards. Additionally, people who feel appreciated and valued through expressions of gratitude are more likely to engage in tasks willingly and wholeheartedly.

2. The Brain on Gratitude: Understanding the Neurological Impact of Gratitude

Release of “Feel-Good” Neurotransmitters:

When you express gratitude, whether through actions, thoughts, or words, your brain responds by releasing several “feel-good” neurotransmitters, including:

  • Dopamine: Dopamine is referred to as the “reward neurotransmitter.” It is released when you experience pleasure and reward. Expressing gratitude activates the brain’s reward center, leading to a surge in dopamine. This not only makes you feel happier but also motivates you to repeat the behavior that triggered the release of dopamine.
  • Serotonin: Gratitude is closely linked to an increase in serotonin production. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in regulating mood, contributing to feelings of well-being and happiness. Higher serotonin levels can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Oxytocin: Known as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone,” oxytocin is released when we connect with others through acts of kindness, gratitude, and social bonding. It strengthens social relationships and promotes trust, empathy, and connection with others.

Rewiring the Brain for Increased Happiness:

Gratitude doesn’t just stop at releasing these “feel-good” neurotransmitters; it also rewires your brain for increased happiness over time. Here’s how this rewiring process works:

  • Neuroplasticity: The brain has a remarkable ability to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways. When you regularly practice gratitude, you stimulate neuroplasticity, forging new connections in the brain associated with happiness and positive emotions.
  • Shifting Perspective: Gratitude encourages you to shift your perspective. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking or negative, you begin to pay more attention to the positive aspects of your life. This shift in mindset contributes to a more optimistic outlook on life.

Why This Matters for Your Mental Health:

Understanding the neurological effects of gratitude is crucial because it directly impacts your mental health and well-being:

  • Reduction in Stress: Gratitude helps regulate the stress response in the brain. As you experience increased levels of dopamine and serotonin, your body becomes better equipped to manage stress, reducing its harmful effects on your mental health.
  • Improved Mood: The release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters contributes to an improved mood. This can be especially beneficial for individuals experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, as it offers a natural way to enhance their emotional well-being.
  • Resilience and Coping: With a more resilient brain and a heightened sense of well-being, you’re better prepared to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks. Gratitude equips you with the mental fortitude to bounce back from adversity.

3. The Science of Gratitude on Physical Health Benefits

The Science of Gratitude shows far-reaching physical health benefits. Let’s delve into how gratitude can effectively lower stress, boost the immune system, and promote better sleep.

Lowering Stress:

  • Cortisol Reduction: Gratitude has been linked to a reduction in cortisol levels, which is the body’s primary stress hormone. Practicing gratitude lowers cortisol levels and reduces perceived stress.
  • Improved Stress Coping: Expressing gratitude fosters a more positive and optimistic outlook, helping individuals better cope with stressful situations. Gratitude can increase resilience and the ability to handle stress more effectively.

Boosting the Immune System:

  • Immune Response Enhancement: Gratitude can enhance the body’s immune response. People who regularly expressed gratitude exhibit stronger immune systems, with higher levels of antibodies and increased white blood cell counts.
  • Inflammatory Reduction: Chronic stress can lead to inflammation, which is linked to various health issues. Gratitude has been found to reduce inflammation. Some research indicates individuals who practiced gratitude had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.

Promoting Better Sleep:

  • Sleep Quality Improvement: Gratitude has a positive impact on sleep quality. Studies show that individuals who kept a gratitude journal experienced better sleep, falling asleep more quickly, staying asleep longer, and feeling more refreshed upon waking.
  • Reduction in Sleep Disturbances: Gratitude practices have also been associated with a decrease in sleep disturbances.

Gratitude isn’t just a vague notion of being thankful; it’s a powerful tool with concrete, measurable benefits. By understanding the science behind gratitude, you can harness its potential to transform your life and well-being year-round, not just during the month of November. Start your journey toward a happier and healthier you today by signing up for online counselling or digital coaching from Blue Elephant Counseling

focused young woman writing agenda in diary
Activity, Blog

30 Day Gratitude Challenge: Mental Well-Being in November

November is a time of transition and reflection, making it the perfect month to embark on a gratitude challenge. In this 30 Day Gratitude Challenge, we will explore the transformative power of gratitude, discover its positive impact on mental health, and provide you with a structured plan to enhance your overall well-being. Join us as we kickstart a habit of thankfulness that can change your life.

1. The Science of Gratitude

Gratitude isn’t just about saying “thank you” – it’s a profound psychological concept with real-life benefits. See next weeks blog post on The Science of Gratitude to learn about the physical and mental health benefits of gratitude.

2. 30 Daily Gratitude Prompts

Some days, finding something to be grateful for might be a breeze, while other days, it’s more challenging. We’ll provide a list of 30 daily gratitude prompts and ideas to ensure you never run out of things to be thankful for.

  1. Something or someone in your life that makes you smile every day.
  2. A memorable moment from your childhood that brings you joy.
  3. A skill or talent you possess that you’re grateful for.
  4. A place you love to visit that brings you peace.
  5. A family member who has supported you unconditionally.
  6. A close friend who has been there for you through thick and thin.
  7. A teacher or mentor who made a positive impact on your life.
  8. A favorite book or movie that has enriched your life.
  9. A specific accomplishment or achievement you’re proud of.
  10. A meal or food item that always satisfies your cravings.
  11. The beauty of nature, whether it’s a sunrise, sunset, or a starry night.
  12. A piece of art or music that speaks to your soul.
  13. A personal quality or characteristic that you admire in yourself.
  14. A recent act of kindness someone performed for you.
  15. A piece of advice or wisdom that has guided you through life.
  16. A pet or animal that brings joy to your daily routine.
  17. A moment when you felt particularly loved and appreciated.
  18. A cozy, comfortable place in your home where you find solace.
  19. A technological advancement that has improved your life.
  20. A trip or vacation that left you with cherished memories.
  21. A favorite hobby or activity that brings you fulfillment.
  22. A health-related aspect you’re grateful for, such as your well-being or fitness.
  23. A warm and supportive community you’re a part of.
  24. A personal challenge or obstacle that made you stronger.
  25. A season of the year that you look forward to and appreciate.
  26. A past mistake or failure that taught you valuable lessons.
  27. A heartfelt letter or message from a loved one.
  28. A positive change or transformation you’ve experienced.
  29. A beautiful quality or characteristic in someone you admire.
  30. The opportunities that the future holds for personal growth and new experiences.

3. Accountability and Sharing Your 30 Day Gratitude Challenge and Progress

Sharing your gratitude journey with others can be a powerful motivator. We’ll explore 8 benefits of accountability partners, sharing your gratitude lists, and fostering a sense of community.

1. Increased Consistency:

  • When you have an accountability partner, you’re more likely to stay consistent with your gratitude practice. Knowing that someone else is on this journey with you encourages daily participation.

2. Mutual Support:

  • Additionally, accountability partners can provide emotional support and encouragement. Sharing your gratitude lists with each other fosters a sense of camaraderie and motivation.

3. Different Perspectives:

  • Your partner may have unique perspectives and experiences to share. This broadens your own gratitude horizons, helping you appreciate things you might not have noticed otherwise.

4. Strengthened Relationships:

  • Sharing your gratitude lists can strengthen relationships, be it with a partner, friend, or family member. It’s an intimate way to connect and express appreciation for one another.

5. Collective Growth:

  • In a gratitude community, individuals inspire and motivate each other. The collective growth of the community enhances the overall well-being of its members.

6. Shared Wisdom:

  • A community is a repository of shared wisdom and insights. Members can offer tips, prompts, and techniques to enrich each other’s gratitude practice.

7. Accountability on a Larger Scale:

  • A community holds you accountable on a larger scale, reinforcing the commitment to gratitude. It’s not just about a personal journey; it’s about the shared experience.

8. Celebrating Together:

  • In a community, achievements and milestones are celebrated collectively. This can boost motivation and positivity.

4. Overcoming Obstacles During 30 Day Gratitude Challenge

Life can get busy, and there may be days when you struggle to find time for your gratitude practice. We’ll discuss common obstacles and strategies to overcome them, so you can stay committed to the challenge.

Lack of time: Set a specific time for your gratitude practice each day, even if it’s just a few minutes. This consistency makes it a habit.

Forgetfulness: Use reminders or alarms on your phone to prompt your daily practice. You can also place your gratitude journal or app in a visible location.

Negative Thinking: When facing negativity, force yourself to find at least one positive thing to write down. It can be a simple pleasure like a warm cup of tea or a friendly smile.

Overwhelm: Keep it simple. Don’t feel pressured to write lengthy entries. Even a single sentence of gratitude can be impactful.

Missed Days: Accept that missed days happen to everyone. Don’t give up; simply resume your practice the next day without self-judgment.

Negative Influences: Surround yourself with people who support your gratitude journey. Share your experiences and seek encouragement from like-minded friends or family members.

5. Transformative Effects of 30 Day Gratitude Challenge

The real magic happens when you stick with the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. By committing to this 30-Day Gratitude Challenge, you’ll be on your way to a happier, more mentally resilient you. Embrace November as a time of growth, reflection, and gratitude, and watch as the positive effects ripple through all areas of your life.

Online Counseling or Coaching for Your Well Being

In the spirit of our 30 Day Gratitude Challenge, we encourage you to continue your journey toward enhanced well-being and personal growth. Remember, seeking support on your path to a more fulfilled life is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you find that you need additional guidance or support, Blue Elephant Counseling is here for you.

Our team of compassionate professionals offers online counseling and coaching services to help you navigate life’s challenges, cultivate gratitude, and find your inner resilience. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to explore further ways to boost your mental well-being, achieve your goals, and maintain a gratitude practice that lasts beyond these 30 days. Your journey toward a happier, healthier you is just a click or call away. Contact us today to embark on a new chapter of well-being and growth.

smiling woman holding orange sun hat
Blog Post Thursday

Embracing Change in October: A Journey of Personal Growth

As October unfolds, nature’s transformation is a vivid reminder that change is an intrinsic part of life. Let’s delve into the theme of embracing change and personal growth, inspired by the enchanting tapestry of October.

The Changing Seasons

October’s arrival brings forth a symphony of autumnal colors. Leaves transition from vibrant green to hues of red, orange, and gold before gracefully descending to the earth. This change mirrors the natural rhythm of life, urging us to let go of what no longer serves us and make room for new experiences and opportunities.

Personal Growth

In the face of changing landscapes, we can draw inspiration for our own personal growth. Much like trees that shed their leaves to prepare for winter, we too must shed old habits, negative thought patterns, or fears that hinder our progress. October encourages us to adapt and evolve, fostering our personal transformation.

Setting Goals

October marks the transition from the year’s midpoint to its final quarter. It’s an ideal time to revisit and reevaluate the goals and resolutions set earlier in the year. Reflect on your progress, celebrate your achievements, and adjust your goals if needed. Much like the changing leaves, this season reminds us that it’s never too late to make positive changes in life.

Practicing Mindfulness

The enchantment of October inspires us to live in the present moment. Take a break from life’s hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of this wonderful season. The practice of mindfulness, akin to admiring the autumn landscape, helps you remain grounded and appreciative of the here and now.

Building Resilience

Just as nature’s resilience allows it to endure the changing seasons, we too can build resilience to navigate life’s uncertainties. Embracing change may be challenging, but it offers growth opportunities. By developing resilience, we can bounce back from setbacks, adapt to new situations, and thrive in the face of change.

Embrace the change and personal growth opportunities presented by October. Discover that change is not to be feared but celebrated. This month encourages us to release the old, set new goals, practice mindfulness, and build resilience. The colors of October remind us of the beauty in change, and in the evolving chapters of our lives. Whether you’re sipping pumpkin spice lattes, strolling through falling leaves, or simply reflecting, October invites you to embrace the journey of change and personal growth.

As October’s vibrant change inspires your personal growth journey, remember that you don’t have to navigate it alone. If you’re seeking guidance and support to embrace change and build resilience, consider signing up for digital coaching or online counseling at Blue Elephant Counseling. Your path to a more fulfilling life begins with a single click.

Blog Post Thursday

Minimalism: Finding Joy by Embracing Simplicity

In a world that often encourages accumulation and excess, the concept of minimalism stands out as a refreshing way of life. Minimalism is not merely about decluttering physical spaces; it’s a mindset that can lead to greater mental clarity, reduced stress, and increased overall happiness. Let’s delve into the world of minimalism and discover how it can bring more joy into your life.

What is Minimalism?

At its core, minimalism is the intentional practice of living with less. It involves simplifying your surroundings, commitments, and possessions to focus on what truly matters. Minimalists strive to eliminate the unnecessary, making room for what adds value and meaning to their lives.

The Benefits of Minimalism:

  1. Clarity and Focus: By removing distractions and excess, minimalism enables you to focus on your priorities and goals with greater clarity.
  2. Reduced Stress: A clutter-free environment translates to a clutter-free mind. When you’re surrounded by fewer possessions, you experience less stress and mental noise.
  3. Enhanced Creativity: A simplified space encourages creativity to flourish, as you’re not weighed down by the chaos of clutter.
  4. Improved Finances: Cutting back on unnecessary purchases saves money and encourages thoughtful spending on items that truly align with your values.
  5. Mindful Consumption: Minimalism promotes conscious consumption. You become more aware of what you bring into your life and how it impacts you and the environment.

Getting Started with Simplicity:

  1. Declutter Gradually: Start small by tackling one area at a time, whether it’s your closet, bookshelf, or kitchen. Ask yourself if each item brings you joy or serves a practical purpose.
  2. Prioritize Experiences: Shift your focus from accumulating possessions to accumulating experiences. Invest in activities that create memories and enrich your life.
  3. Practice Gratitude: Recognize the value in what you already have. Gratitude fosters contentment and reduces the desire for excessive consumption.
  4. Digital Decluttering: Extend minimalism to your digital life by organizing your files, unsubscribing from unnecessary emails, and curating your online content.
  5. Mindful Purchasing: Before making a purchase, pause and reflect on whether the item aligns with your values and genuinely enhances your life.

Minimalism and Mental Health:

Minimalism’s influence goes beyond physical spaces. It extends to your mental well-being by promoting mindfulness, reducing decision fatigue, and encouraging a sense of freedom from the burden of excess.

In a world inundated with materialism, embracing simplicity can be a transformative journey. By focusing on what truly brings you joy, you can find greater fulfillment, reduced stress, and a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. Remember, minimalism is a personal journey, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Start small, stay patient, and savor the sense of freedom that comes with simplifying and decluttering your life.

Ready to embark on your own minimalism journey? Start by evaluating your surroundings and making mindful choices. Embrace the beauty of simplicity, and you might just find that less truly is more.

Coping skills, Education

How To Practice GRATITUDE

Photo by Max Garaev on

Katie Donahoo

Gratitude is the practice of feeling and expressing appreciation for the good things in our lives. It can be a powerful tool for improving our well-being and building stronger relationships with others. Here are some ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal: Each day, take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for. These can be big or small, serious or silly. The act of writing them down can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  2. Share your gratitude with others: Whether it’s through a simple “thank you” or a heartfelt note, expressing your appreciation to others can help strengthen your relationships and make you feel more connected to the people around you.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Gratitude is often easier to cultivate when we are present in the moment and paying attention to our surroundings. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and the present moment can help you become more aware of the good things in your life.
  4. Help others: One of the easiest ways to feel grateful is to do something kind for someone else. Whether it’s volunteering your time, donating to a charity, or simply performing a small act of kindness for a friend or stranger, helping others can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment that can help you feel more grateful for your own blessings.
  5. Look for the good in difficult situations: It’s natural to focus on the negative aspects of a challenging situation, but try to look for the silver lining. What can you learn from the experience? Is there something positive that has come out of it? Taking a moment to consider the positive aspects of a difficult situation can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  6. Reflect on your blessings: Take some time each day to think about the things in your life that you are grateful for. These could be material possessions, experiences, or even intangible things like your health or relationships. Reflecting on these blessings can help you appreciate the good things in your life and feel more grateful overall.
  7. Be thankful for the small things: It’s easy to take the little things for granted, but taking the time to appreciate the small pleasures in life can help you cultivate a sense of gratitude. This could be something as simple as a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning or a beautiful sunset.
  8. Practice gratitude regularly: Gratitude is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Make it a habit to express your gratitude on a daily basis, and over time you will find it becomes easier to feel and express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  9. Surround yourself with grateful people: The people we spend time with can have a big influence on our attitudes and behaviors. Surrounding yourself with grateful people can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset and make it easier to express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  10. Express gratitude in difficult times: It can be especially hard to feel grateful when you’re going through a tough time, but expressing gratitude can actually help you feel better. Even if you don’t feel particularly thankful in the moment, taking a few minutes to focus on the things you are grateful for can help shift your mindset and bring a sense of perspective.

In conclusion, gratitude is a powerful practice that can have a positive impact on our well-being and relationships. By incorporating some of these techniques into your daily routine, you can cultivate a more grateful mindset and experience the many benefits of expressing appreciation for the good things in your life.

Guided Imagery

Guided Gratitude …

Katie Donahoo

Sit back in your chair, take a deep breath in and out while let your muscles relax. Remove the tongue from the roof of your mouth, and take a moment to visualize with me……

Think about the people you love. Your spouse, your children, your parents. See their faces in front of you. Picture those who may not be related you but whom you love like family. A friend, a neighbor, a colleague. Feel your heart soften as you think of these loved ones. 

Picture the non-human loves in your life; a dog, a cat, a bunny, a reptile. Allow yourself to smile as you picture their face. 

Remember the last time someone gave you a heart felt thank you. Words of gratitude or appreciation. A card or a gift. Remember the gratitude you felt in that moment as you were recognized for your efforts.

Visualize the last time you received a warm hug. Who was it from? Feel the gentle but firm squeeze as you think about it. Imagine the smell you inhaled as you returned this person’s hug. The relaxation as you exhaled just before stepping back.

Let you mind keep wander to all the latest comforts you may have forgotten to enjoy. The hot coffee you sip in the mornings. The peaceful silence on the drive to work. The way your breath can been seen in the crisp morning air.

Image the release you feel when removing your shoes at the end of the day. The feeling of laying in your bed as you settle down for the night. 

Notice how your body fills with gratefulness for these big and small things. It’s warmth and love and comfort rising within you. Bathe in the richness of this feelings. Allow it to consume you. 

Consider for a moment what life would be like if you took small moments like these and enjoyed them while they were happening. Gratitude in the moment rather than an after thought. Intentional gratefulness daily. 

As your awareness returns to the present remember this feeling. The warmth, the peace, the contentedness. This is where happiness lies. In the folds of the mundane and the background of the boring. Hiding in plain sight just waiting for you to see it. 

Happy Thanksgiving Readers