As the COVID-19 rollercoaster continues to hurtle along, and with much of the country in lockdown, it feels like a good time to talk about the importance of gratitude for our mental health.
Taking time to be consciously grateful of the good things in our lives is an important part of building resilience. It gives us space to reflect on the good things, and to get perspective on our struggles.
Carving out space to give thanks has been part of our society for centuries – from giving thanks for the food on our tables each night, to more official occasions such as Thanksgiving in the US. There’s a reason giving thanks has been encouraged throughout history.
The positive impact of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can help you feel more positive about life, and overcome feelings of fear and anxiety you may be struggling with.
Research has also shown gratitude has a positive impact on your overall health and wellness, and that practicing gratitude during a crisis like COVID-19 can boost your mood, and also help your physical health in response to illnesses like respiratory infections.
Being more grateful has also been linked with better sleep, fewer headaches and fewer gastrointestinal troubles.
So, how can we use gratitude as a way to improve our health during COVID-19?
Express gratitude to others.
Showing your gratitude to others has a double impact. It helps you become aware of good things in your life, but it also gives the person you’re grateful for a boost.
Whether that’s writing a thank you note or email to someone who’s been helpful, leaving a positive review online for a local business you’re grateful for, or even just taking time in your next zoom meeting to express gratitude to your team, being generous with your gratitude boosts your mood, and the mood of the people around you.
Reflect on what you’re grateful for in your own life.
While there’s no denying COVID-19 has been a cause of great upheaval, uncertainty and stress, try to identify positives resulting from the pandemic.
Perhaps you feel grateful to be in a country where we haven’t had a huge loss of life, and where we have hard-working healthcare workers who are keeping us safe.
Perhaps you’re grateful to have reconnected with your family through more time at home. Or perhaps you’re simply grateful to be living in an age where modern technology means you can still speak to family and friends around the world via video chats and messaging.
Try to become aware of the things you’re grateful for which also boost your mood.
For example, if chatting with family members makes you feel positive and happy, then make an effort to schedule in calls on a regular basis. Or if being in nature is a source of calm and joy, then prioritise getting outside to the beach, going on a bushwalk, or simply sitting outside under the stars and enjoying the night sky.
Building a daily gratitude habit.
As with most things, building good habits around gratitude and making it part of your daily routine is a great way to really appreciate the benefits.
To do this, try keeping a notebook next to your bed, and writing down three things you’re grateful for at the start or end of each day.
At first you might struggle to think of specifics, so things like ‘my own health’, ‘access to high-quality healthcare’, ‘being able to speak to my mum on the phone’ might be a good place to start.
As time goes on, you’ll find yourself becoming more aware of what you’re grateful for – and finding more specific things to note in your notebook.
Carving out this time each day to be grateful, will help you feel more positive about your life and how you’re coping in this challenging time.
No matter how bad things feel, there are always things we can be grateful for.
If you’d like to speak with us about coping in the pandemic and how to embrace gratitude for your own wellbeing, get in touch with the team at Dr Olga Lavalle & Associates on (02) 4244 5636.