Things have not been easy for any of us during these past few months – or “unprecedented times.” We may feel like we’ve had many losses: loss of security, loss of contact with others, loss of freedom to come and go where we would like, maybe even loss of health and loved ones, among many more. Many of our blog posts over this time have focused on stress reduction, mindfulness, and finding balance in our lives. I would like to focus this week more on gratitude and looking at the positives that are also going on right now. Identifying the positive in a situation can be much harder than seeing the negative effects, but practicing an “attitude of gratitude” not only helps your mood, but research shows that it helps you age well.
According to multiple studies, the practice of gratitude can result in many improved physical and psychological effects on the body. It can also create greater optimism, happiness and overall well-being. There are multiple ways to bring this habit into your life. You may want to keep a journal or notebook and write down a few things each day that you are thankful and/or send thank you cards to those you feel grateful for. You may want to pray or give thanks daily or just be mindful of your feelings of gratitude. In order to get in the right frame of mind, get in the habit of asking yourself some of these daily questions to help acknowledge the good in your life:
- How was I kind today? Who was kind to me?
- What have I received today? What have I given to others today?
- What was a simple joy I experienced?
- What was unexpected in a good way?
- What was good?
- Who am I thankful or grateful for?
You may be thinking “what is there to be thankful for during these difficult times?” Let me share with you a few things that I have thought of. Because of cancellations, venues being closed, and being at home more – we have slowed down a little bit and family members under the same roof are re-connecting more and spending more time together. We are witnessing acts of kindness from others – hearing more and more about how people are pitching in to help others like writing letters to nursing home residents, making masks, delivering food and supplies, etc. Some of us might be saving some money by spending less on travel, auto upkeep, going out to eat, and all the shopping trips for things we really didn’t need. For some, it has been an opportunity to catch up on learning new technology that has been beneficial in working and schooling remotely and reaching out to others – whether colleagues, clients or family members.
One of my Extension colleagues Stacy Woodyard had a great post on Facebook one day about how families have capitalized on the "extra" time together instead of managing hectic schedules. I wish I could include the whole post (it is too long) but here are some highlights: “Maybe instead of taking away their childhood, we are giving them a summer of memories that they may never have again. Maybe we are preparing them for adulthood in a way we never would have before. Maybe we are teaching them skills that will help them become stronger leaders in difficult times. Maybe we (can use this experience) to teach our children empathy, selflessness, and compassion. Is that really so bad? I think not. Maybe adults need to take a step back and rethink the situation. Maybe we have a responsibility to help our children learn new skills and have new experiences they would not otherwise have. Maybe we make sure the summer of 2020 is the summer they remember for all that they learned not for what was taken away.
This is a great example of focusing on the positive and being thankful for what we have. I am not belittling the losses we have had and not suggesting we ignore the feelings about those losses. However, I am hoping we can try to focus on the positive and feel gratitude as we move forward and live each day to the fullest.
Chelsey Byers. Being grateful is good for you. May 2020. Family Files blog – for the whole article: https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files/2020-05-19-being-grateful-good-you
Stacy Woodyard. Facebook post – used with permission.