Long before the current health crisis, nearly every generation before us has used gratitude to maintain hope and find fulfillment during difficult situations. I would encourage you to apply this to our current situation. Feeling gratitude helps maintain our endurance to see us through difficult times. Gratitude is often present when we are being empathetic and allows us to be more thoughtful toward others and strengthens our connections to people around us. I would argue that gratitude is one of the keys to resilience during this time.
Why gratitude? For many of us, this world-wide crisis is frustrating, saddening, confining, and daunting. It has touched all of us in some way. Yet, we have the potential to find many reminders during this pandemic of things we can be thankful for which helps us realize that despite large changes in the world, not everything has changed. We can be thankful for little things. By recognizing the little things, and big things too, we draw out the positive moments or happenings and take time to appreciate them, holding space for hope and normalcy. We can include others by showing gratitude to someone else, offering them another way to cope and give them hope. Acts such as appreciating, thanking, and giving praise and meeting someone with empathy can only expand our connections. Through kindness we can expand our connections with others and are able to feel hopeful and perhaps more fulfilled during the pandemic. Even better, celebrating something large or small with another person— a child, adult, stranger, can bring us so much more connection and helps us rally as a community.
We can also benefit from the feeling that we have choice and showing gratitude in little things is a choice that can have a very positive affect. We may not always feel like we have much control during the pandemic, but we have the ability to create situations in which we have control. We are able to decide what small and large tasks to perform throughout our day, choosing with whom and how we interact, planning for short and long-term rewards, and finding little victories. For example, I have been setting 5 daily intentions or tasks for myself and I celebrate and feel thankful when I am able to complete them. These can be little goals- do 20 squats while brushing my teeth, showing a little extra patience for others around me, or finishing my coffee when it is still hot. Bigger goals could include working your way to a pleasant weekend plan- plan a movie night with a theme, order a special take-out dinner, explore a new walking route, or gather a few people together online who you have been missing. We may not have as much choice as we are accustomed due to current circumstances, but we do have choices that enable us to feel better about ourselves and that promote hope, positive thinking, and connection.
Another aspect to consider is that when we cannot change our external circumstances, we can focus on growth in ourselves. Improving one’s health, physically, mentally, or emotionally can be powerful. Do something you used to love doing, learn a new hobby, or read that book you have been meaning to read. Fill yourself up in a way that feels natural, healthy, and helpful as you cope with the situation. As you try new things, be mindful of the task you are performing. Allow yourself to feel gratitude that you are able to take the time to give yourself this gift. Consider making something for someone else or including them in the activity. You will both benefit from these acts of kindness and can show gratitude to each other.
Gratitude may include helping others which also strengthens hope in ourselves. Doing something for someone else creates a valuable connection with another person. Helping others could include- donating time or money if you are able, offering to read a story or engage in an activity virtually, volunteering to cook and swap or donate meals to friends, family, or neighbors. You could clean up a space or improve your surroundings through gardening or some other sort of maintenance for your own home or in support of someone else’s. Helping other people gives us a sense of community, demonstrates gratitude for being a part of that community, and gives others hope that we can thrive no matter what the circumstances.
Gratitude is the key to self compassion and connection to others. Wherever you can, try to enter situations with as much empathy as you possible. Be kind to yourself and others. Set little goals that allow you to feel control over your day and allow you to celebrate little victories. Include others by reaching out- comment on a friends post to offer encouragement and share a nice word, honor an anniversary or accomplishment, send an extra email or text message, or mail a card. These simple gestures can make a large difference for someone else and for ourselves. We are all in this together! Take good care and find something to be thankful for today.