Most of us are fed up with the pandemic. The new year has arrived and it’s still here. Blue Monday has passed, but we are still in lockdown and dealing with tight restrictions to stop the virus. This whole situation has made us uneasy and tired of ever-changing measures, leading to feelings of misplacement and loneliness. Gathering around with friends or hugging someone we love never has been so important. Enough, says the brain, but we’re going to need to wait a bit longer until life is back to something closer to normal. However, there is a powerful way to deal with all of it and it’s pretty accessible: to feel gratitude. It might be what we need at the moment to finish the race against Covid-19.
The power of feeling grateful
Gratitude is a powerful positive force. Moreover, it’s a way for people to appreciate what they have, instead of always reaching out for something new in the hopes it will make them happier. A recent article by Forbes confirms that feeling gratitude has positive effects on emotional well-being, motivation, belonging, engagement and physical health. Some philosophers suggest it’s the greatest virtue and that you can’t feel both grateful and unhappy. For example, appreciation of someone can grow into love, gratitude for what you have can lead to greater satisfaction and loving your work can lead to improved performance. Sounds good, but let’s look into science too.
A study published in Psychological Science found that being thankful increases patience. In addition, it has been found that gratitude has a positive impact on our mental and emotional states – leading to optimism for example – as well as physical health. It also predicts behaviours such as helping others and exercising.
Another article in the Harvard Medical shows the power of cultivating gratitude. In this study, three groups were tested. The first wrote about things that had occurred during the week, that they were grateful for. The second wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them, with no emphasis on positivity or negativity. After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and needed fewer visits to physicians.
Researchers explain that these effects occur because gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. Although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice. It is an effective exercise to do at home, to try and fight the annoying feelings we seek to silence.
Ways to cultivate gratitude
The Harvard Medical school made a really cool list suggesting ways to practice gratitude in your life. Let’s take a look at some suggestions:
Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one your thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day. This can be a nice meal, a great complement, your home, beautiful music, etc. Make a list and write it down once in a while, or even every morning.
Write a thank-you note.
Express your enjoyment and appreciation for someone who has impacted your life. Send it, or even better, deliver it and read it out. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Really important: once in a while, write one to yourself.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. It’s also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
Thank someone mentally.
It may help to just think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank them.
Count your blessings.
Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings, reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Make a list of three to five things and write about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
If you are religious, you can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Written by Raphael Vieira