Amanda Richards, Possip Reporting Team Lead, discusses the impact that thankfulness can have and ways to help you find thankfulness during a pandemic.
Last year around this time, I wrote a blog on some gratitude strategies for teachers and students to use inside and outside of the classroom. Even though a year has now passed, the importance of finding thankfulness during a pandemic and building intentional gratefulness still feels like a big need in our current context. Giving thanks may feel contradictory during difficult times, it can make a huge impact on mental health. Thankfulness has been proven to improve relationships, increase work motivation, and improve your overall health. Knowing all that, I will definitely take an extra scoop of gratitude on my mashed potatoes this holiday season!
But seriously, how can we continue to do small things each day to feel more thankful. Especially as things start to reopen and life is somewhat starting to return to a new normal. By beginning to practice intentional gratitude will be key to lifelong “happiness” habits.
Here are five strategies to try out this holiday season
🛣 Be present and appreciate the little things
💪 Seeing challenges as opportunities
📲 Be intentional about your inputs
💭 Celebrate and encourage positive self talk
❣️ Spend time with loved ones and do things you love
1. Be Present and Appreciate the Little Things
I’ve always tried to be a “stop and smell the roses” kind of person, but I found that hard to do during the pandemic when I really wasn’t smelling anything except the inside of my apartment. Now that things are reopening. I’m really trying to stop and be present, and appreciate the small things that bring joy. Being grateful in your day-to-day situations can actually create something psychology calls “positive memory bias” that allows you to recall positive memories more frequently throughout life. Set alarms for “gratitude moments” during your day, leave sticky notes around your house or in your car as a reminder to find something you’re thankful for today or find an accountability buddy for gratitude to text throughout the day. Whatever works for you, it can help to remind yourself to be present, appreciate the little things, and start building gratitude “muscle memory”.
2. Seeing Challenges as Opportunities
Isolation, death, grief, financial struggles–just a few reasons why the pandemic has been a challenge for many people. Although this is all true, valid, and important to the process, it may be helpful for some to think about how the pandemic has provided new or positive opportunities. A psychology term called “benefit finding” refers to the process of mentally listing out all of the positive things associated with a challenge. Research has found that some people find a greater appreciation for their own personal strength, increase feelings of self-reliance, strengthen relationships, have more compassion, or find new spiritual beliefs. Try to focus on and intentionally pick out the “benefits” you have encountered during this challenging time.
3. Be Intentional About Your Inputs
Personally, any time I watch a dark or negatively emotional tv show, my whole day is thrown off. Once the evening finds me, I find it hard to fall asleep. Being intentional about what you are watching, reading, listening to, and “taking in” can help keep positive and grateful emotions flowing. For me, The Science of Happiness podcast is always a positive “input” and I learn more about topics like gratitude. Here are a few more podcasts you may want to add to your “Gratitude Input List” this holiday season!
4. Positive Self Talk
Most times, you are your biggest critic. I know I can relate! Make sure to keep the inner thoughts you have positive and realize when those thoughts become negative. When we keep our thoughts about ourselves positive, that positive self-talk can spark gratitude towards other things in our life. As you become aware of your internal monologue, find a few specific questions to ask yourself:
- Are my thoughts positive right now?
- What is one good thing about my current situation?
- What helpful things did I learn from this situation?
- How can I bring joy to this situation?
Use one of these questions or find another question that you connect with to ask yourself throughout the day. Positive self-talk will not only make you feel more grateful, but it will also decrease stress and improve your immune system.
5. Spend Time with Loved Ones and Doing Things You Love
You’ve probably had some time to take on new hobbies, experience new outdoor activities, or find at least one new routine you enjoy during quarantine. Continue doing that and prioritizing finding things you enjoy doing.
On a similar note, you’ve probably had more time with loved ones than ever before. Many, including myself, know the benefits and hardships of seeing maybe a little too much of your loved ones. However, I undoubtedly would never give up the quality time I was able to spend strengthening relationships with family and close friends. Research shows that social support and spending time with loved ones can lower stress, improve recovery time for illnesses, and positively benefit your overall mood.
All these benefits of gratitude make me grateful for gratitude! And Possip is grateful for YOU! We hope you all have success in finding thankfulness during a pandemic.