The past year and a half has been filled with changes to our every day lifestyle that have sparked an array of emotions. Most of which have been frightened and worried. When worrying about the pandemic and its affects on your loved ones and yourself, often times, there has been no room for gratitude.
Many people, myself included, have felt that in the times of frightening and worrisome emotions that have consumed our lives, that there is no room for gratitude.
However, I am here to share why it is more important than ever to focus on gratitude.
Gratitude is beneficial for your mental and physical health, as it can help you relax and stay well through the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of practicing gratitude.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Focusing on silver linings. Counting your blessings. Stopping to smell the roses.
These aren’t just cliches; they’re activities that research shows may enhance your quality of life. The health benefits of practicing gratitude are wide-ranging — and maybe even a bit surprising
1. Improving your Immune System
Did you just hear that practicing gratitude has benefits on your immune system?! I sure did!
The practice of gratitude can improve immune function, according to the American Heart Association. This is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, since those with compromised immune systems face a high risk of becoming severely ill from coronavirus.
2. Improving your Mental Wellness
Studies have shown that people who practiced gratitude showed a significantly lower risk for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and substance dependence and abuse, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
By taking a few moments out of your day to either meditate, write out what you are grateful for, as well as focus on the silver lining of a certain situation, can drastically improve your mental wellness.
Step by step, and day by day my friends!
3. Get a Handle on Stress
Focusing on positive emotions can help improve your ability to cope with stress, according to the National Institutes of Health. Studies have shown that by narrowing down on your emotions and the root of them, that you are able to lower your stress levels within minutes.
How to Practice Gratitude
A great question, indeed! Cultivating thankfulness isn’t homework, and it doesn’t require much time or energy. You can start small by taking a few moments to notice things that are going well in your life. To help make this a regular habit, set aside a short time each day to intentionally practice gratitude.
Try one or more of these activities to start.
1. Jot Down Your Thoughts
Make a habit of writing down the things you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a long list, but if you regularly challenge yourself to identify and name your gratitude, you may begin to notice improvement in your emotional well-being.
Not sure where to start? Give these a try:
- One place that is safe and relaxes you
- One thing that’s going well in your life
- Three things you enjoy doing
- Three things you’re looking forward to
- Two people whom you love and who love you
If you are still unsure that those few ideas are for you, the American Heart Association suggested that individuals follow an acronym called “HEART.”
It goes just like this:
- Health: Think of what your body allowed you to do today. Maybe your feet enabled you to walk around the house or your arms allowed you to hold a pet you love.
- Eat: What nourishment did you provide your body today? What was your favorite meal?
- Activity: Did you do something today that you really enjoyed? Take a moment to reflect on and savor it.
- Relationship: Did you see or talk to someone today who brings you joy? (Remember: The person in the mirror counts.)
- Time: There’s no time like the present. Allow yourself to be grateful for the fact that you’re here.
If this sounds like too much to tackle, pick and choose what you’d like to focus on, and feel free to change it up depending on your mood or ability.
And if you find yourself saying that you have nothing to be grateful for, try thinking about all the little things you have. You may find that you’re taking for granted certain abilities or privileges you have that others may not be as fortunate to have.
2. Make Mealtimes Matter
We aren’t talking about dieting, we are talking appreciating the bounty on your table. When eating, slow down and savor every bite. Not only will you feel more thankful, but you’ll experience a sense of appreciation towards your meal that you may never have before.
Think, who made it? How much effort went into it? How does it feel for your body?
3. Count Appreciation Rather Than Sheep
Laying in bed at night and your mind won’t shut off? No matter how tired you are? We have all been there!
However, research shows that before falling asleep, if you take a moment to think about the positive things that happened during your day it has a positive impact on your sleep.
So, get cozy, and start reflecting on your day!
4. Stop & Smell the Roses
Okay, not actually, but I think you get the point! It might be hard to recognize positive moments while they’re happening, but if you practice enough, you will get the hang of it. When you find yourself enjoying a moment — a sound, a memory, a conversation — try to pause for a bit and bask in the experience.
I know many of us would love to relive a conversation with someone, or a moment again. So, instead of letting that moment be a faint memory filled with regret and or sadness, appreciate it and hold onto it tight. Trust me, that memory will hold onto you too!
5. Create Your Own Moments
Yes! Gratitude goes for you too! Gratitude works in a way that benefits more than just the food, memories, people and activities you are appreciating.
Devote time to yourself, you deserve it! Taking a few moments out of your day to focus on some you time, will have you feeling refreshed and recharged.
And trust me, your body and wellness will thank you later on!
6. Pass on the Love
The pandemic has left many of us feeling alone, and isolated (literally). However, there are ways that you can still pass on love to others, without being in their bubble!
For example, social media has a tendency to reach individuals beyond your little bubble. In that way, sharing an uplifting quote or a picture to make someone smile, is good enough to do the trick!
As well, get out and volunteer (permitting that you follow all COVID-19 guidelines as issued by the government)! There are always people looking for those to join them in spreading some love!
Why We Need Gratitude Now
With that being said, I am going to leave off with this. In times of crisis, it’s important to stay connected to others, and among its many other benefits, gratitude can help with this, too.
The world we live in currently is filled with uncertainty, however, your impact and wellness does not have to be uncertain. gratitude is beneficial for helping you to focus on being:
- More generous and helpful
- More likely to offer emotional support
- More likely to share your possessions
- More willing to forgive others
If ever there was a time when these traits were needed, it’s now.