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Why Gratitude Is Especially Important When Times Are Tough

Updated on 10/06 2021

It’s really hard to break free from panicked thoughts during stressful situations and times of uncertainty, like coronavirus (COVID-19). And while it may seem counterintuitive to focus on gratitude when it feels like the walls are caving in, it’s scientifically proven that there are social, physical and psychological benefits to being grateful.

So let’s stop ourselves from spiraling into negativity and focus on what we can positively put into the world. Read more for a few ideas on how you can start being more grateful.

The positive effects of practicing gratitude:

  • It brings us happiness.
  • It boosts our feeling of optimism. 
  • It reduces anxiety and depression.
  • It lowers our blood pressure.
  • It helps us sleep better.
  • It strengthens our relationships.
  • It makes us more resilient. 

You can read more in-depth information about the power of gratitude at Greater Good Magazine from UC Berkley.

Recognize all that you have to be grateful for. 

People who kept a gratitude journal were shown to be 25% happier than those who didn’t. 

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D, Pay It Forward in Greater Good Magazine

Deciding to embark on a gratitude journal can seem like a simple feat but can quickly feel insurmountable when you’re staring at a blank page with only six things written down leaving you thinking, “How am I grateful for so little?” Instead of framing your thoughts on what you’re always grateful for all at once, try using prompts that help you recall what brought you joy in the past and present, and what may bring you joy in the future. A try these prompts to get started:

  • …made me smile.
  • I laughed when….
  • A funny story was when…
  • I’m looking forward to…
  • I was really happy that…
  • …came out well.

Make it a small goal to recognize one or two things you’re grateful for every day and soon you’ll have an endless list of things you’ll be able to reflect upon that bring you happiness. If you need a little nudge in the right direction, consider downloading an app like Grateful which can help keep you on track. Appreciate everything, be mindful of what you have and don’t forget that you can be grateful for all the challenges you’ve overcome that have made you stronger.

Connect with others. 

Self-quarantine means isolation, and for many, that can mean not seeing another person for days at a time. Which makes now the perfect time to break out the colored pencils, spend 2 hours remembering how to make bubble letters and to send some snail mail. And whether that means surprising a close friend with a quick note to say thinking of you, detailing the last 10 years of your life to a friend you lost contact with or taking time to make a stranger feel seen, getting a real piece of mail is really special. If you’re looking to help brighten a stranger’s day, consider Love for the Elderly which helps connect strangers’ letters to elders. The elderly are at the highest risk of mortality from coronavirus and need to be quarantined for their safety, this level of isolation can lead to many feeling lonely and unsupported. These letters they receive can bring them joy, the feeling of recognition and serves as a reminder that we’re all in this together.

If you’re looking to apply this to your business, think of a guest that stands out and write them a heartfelt thank you note. Maybe they’ve been a repeat guest over the last five years and you want to tell them your heartfelt appreciation for supporting your business, or maybe a guest brought you a gift from their hometown that you can snap a picture of and tell them it’s bringing you joy during these stressful times. Now is the perfect time to let them know how they’ve impacted your life.

Put more good into the world.

Giving back can be a reminder of all the things you may take for granted and can be the gift that keeps on giving in finding gratification. While the act of volunteering your time and/or your money may seem like those who benefit from your act of kindness are reaping the rewards, that’s not the whole story. You get so much more.

Studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being. Acting altruistically creates a cyclical pattern, increasing your capacity for gratitude, promoting more volunteerism, feeling positive and nourished and reaping the benefits of gratitude. Rinse and repeat and soon your cup will runneth over.

Be encouraged to find a cause that resonates with you. Here are just a few ways you can get started:

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