May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Emotional wellness is central to much of the work that we do at the Office of Student Services. To promote it, we collaborate with partners across Harvard, from Counseling and Mental Health Services to the Office of Gender Equity.
One of our closest collaborators is the Office of Student Affairs. You may have seen staff members Sarah Banatoski or Shelby Johnson around campus in the past few weeks handing out flowers and other sweet treats. Perhaps you attended the dog therapy session, received new headshots, or got career advice at the Mignone Center for Career Success—all initiatives coordinated by the Office of Student Affairs as part of the effort to show Harvard Griffin GSAS’s appreciation for students.
There is plenty of research about the connection between appreciation/gratitude and mental health— we even touched on this a bit in April’s article on forgiveness and human flourishing. Approaching relationships from a perspective grounded in empathy and curiosity, as opposed to judgment, is correlated with reduced anxiety and depression. Is it any surprise that approaching daily life with an attitude of gratitude and abundance might have a similar impact on our well-being? If we define gratitude not just as the quality of being thankful, but also a readiness to show appreciation for kindness—and to return it—then a little can go a long way for our emotional wellness and that of our community.
That’s the idea behind the Office of Student Affairs’s efforts at graduate student appreciation. Their work includes reminding students that they worked hard to be here, deserve to be here, and deserve to be happy and celebrate that fact! The Harvard Griffin GSAS Student Center team may even have chatted with you about what you were honoring at the recent Milestones Party, which marked the School’s 150th anniversary by celebrating students’ journeys. When we are feeling down, overwhelmed, or stressed, it can be hard to summon feelings of gratefulness. That’s where our offices come in to provide a helping hand, even if it is as simple as an unexpected gesture, kind word, or quick conversation about what you feel called to commemorate.
Gratitude can also be a great way to stay tuned in to your emotional and mental health. Often when we become unappreciative of the little things, it is a sign that we may be feeling depressed or anxious. That observation helps us know that we need to take a break, do some self-care, and spend a little time appreciating what we do have.
This summer, the Student Affairs and Student Services teams would like to challenge you to write down three things you are grateful for every day. They don’t need to be complex or profound. For example, today I have been grateful for a working microwave, sweatpants, and sunny weather! Whatever it is, take just a few minutes to sit with the feeling of appreciation, gratitude, accomplishment, or joy. You may find that starting your day from this vantage point sets you up for more success. It’s not the right metaphor for spring but think of gratitude like a snowball rolling down a hill—the more you cultivate, the more jumps out at you until enough momentum exists that the ball mostly rolls itself!
Until next month, remember to be kind and visit B-2 to be well!