Gratitude has been proven to have many benefits including health, enhanced empathy, improved self-esteem, reduced aggression and even better sleep!
Recent studies have shown that trait and state levels of gratitude are positively associated with optimism, happiness, and life satisfaction, and negatively associated with anxiety, and depressive symptoms. There is also research looking at how people and communities can be encouraged to increase their gratitude and who benefits most from these efforts.
My idea to build a more mental health friendly Sheffield is to bring a “wall of gratitude” to the city. Walls have been in the news recently as symbols of division, but at Sheffield’s gratitude wall the positivity and hope of the city will be on display, where people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can publicly declare their thanks for something, be it big, small, personal or universal. The wall will be populated with expressions of gratitude that we, the people of Sheffield, contribute. Participants will be encouraged to give a personal response, but given that submissions will be publicly displayed, guidance will be given about inclusion of personal details.
There are two options for displaying contributions:
- A physical wall such as the temporary wooden walls put up around construction sites, where hand-written and hand-drawn submissions can be displayed. In this case, submissions will be accepted in person at the location, or gathered at events in the city.
- A “living mural” via an LED screen in a prominent site in the city (in accordance with rules about not distracting motorists!). In this case, submissions will be accepted by email, Twitter or a simple form on the Sheffield Flourish website. The display will be replicated on a website, accessible to all. An appropriate hashtag will be adopted and publicised, e.g. #SheffieldGratitude. Participants will be asked to submit within a word limit. If funds and contacts allow, a designer could be asked to provide a format for how the text will be displayed (e.g. it might be possible to develop a font and basic style for the display of the text)
Submissions will need to be moderated before being displayed, in case of anything inappropriate, and can be selected at random and shown on a rolling basis. The Sheffield Flourish website will have a record of each “vote of thanks”, so that every citizen can find their own submission if they so wish.
It would be possible to combine both options, with a display of physical artefacts alongside an LED screen showing selected submissions and an online presence.
The wall will be situated in a public space, ideally outdoors, that is used by a variety of people.
Here’s an example of how the Peace Gardens was used for a recent public engagement event around mental health called #happysheffield:
The wall will run for a discrete period of time, and could be timed to coincide with an event such as World Mental Health Day. The wall could also be linked up with BBC Radio Sheffield’s regular “Good news Fridays”.
Whilst I recognise that any “feelgood factor” from this project would likely be short-lived, its legacy could be the efforts to normalise discussion across the city of what contributes to mental health, well-being and mental health problems, thereby reducing stigma. It is by its nature inclusive, and gives a positive voice to people of any age and background.
If you’d like to be involved in making this idea happen please add a comment to let Chris know below.