As we enter a second round of nationwide lockdown, it can be easy to feel withdrawn, numb and disconnected.
I want to encourage you to press in to the things that matter, to you and your family's well-being, and one of those things, which so easily goes missing, is gratitude.
No, I'm not going to suggest 'positive vibes only', but like Pandora in the myth, after opening a jar full of heart break and pain and sorrow, finds hope at the bottom of the jar, we do have the capacity to find something good in our lives that we can be thankful for.
Gratitude Makes Us Happier
Yes, paying attention to the good things in your life can make you 10% happier!
Chih-Che Lin (2017) found that even when controlling for personality, gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being, self-esteem, and even depression. In fact, one study found that practicing gratitude was a significant protective factor against suicidal ideation (Krysinska, Lester, Lyke, & Corveleyn, 2015).
Gratitude Makes Us More Likeable
Several studies have found that practicing gratitude regularly improves people's social support networks. It's thought that being grateful makes us appear more trustworthy and social. This draws others to us, improves our relationships (both romantic and friendships) which actually reduces your need for social support anyway.
Protects Against Emotional Distress
Stoeckel, Weissbrod, & Ahrens (2015) found that the children of chronically and terminally ill parents were protected against anxiety & depression. Gratitude protects from internalization of external factors which can damage mental and emotional health.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Counting your blessings even just once a week can dramatically reduce your blood pressure
A two week gratitude journalling intervention significantly improved several sleep disorders.
Aids Recovery From Substance Abuse
This is why it's such an important part of programs like AA and Recovery.
Improved outcomes for cardiac patients
A study out of Harvard Medical School found that acute coronary syndrome patients experience greater improvements in health-related quality of life and greater reductions in depression and anxiety when they approached recovery with gratitude and optimism.
So how do you do it?
I love Shawn Achor's talk on 'The Happiness Advantage'.
It's 20 minutes long and well worth a watch, but also inspired my own gratitude practice.
Send One Thank You Note
It can be a quick email or a text message, you don't need any fancy stationary (but you can if you like!)
Take a moment to tell someone why you're grateful for something they did, or who they are, or that they're in your life.
Write Three Things
Have a gratitude journal, a notebook or an app on your phone, anywhere that is convenient to grab throughout the day and write down things you are grateful for. A warm breeze, sunshine through the window, a hug from your child... anything.
At the end of each day as you go to bed, review them, and if there are less than three, go back through your day and find more!
That's all I do, but it makes a significant impact on my health and wellbeing when I do it.
You can roll it on your palms and take some deep breaths from your hands, or I like to roll it over my neck and chest area and inhale.
So when I'm feeling overwhelmed or withdrawn, I can pull out some magnolia and I;m instantly pulled back into that place of gratefulness.
Even small children can answer this question and start to build a gratitude practice. Inevitably they will often tell you about some drama that happened. She recommends listening patiently and empathetically, but then asking again, 'but what was good?'
Starting gratitude practice young is a gift we can give our children that will last them well into adulthood.