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Practicing Gratitude, Even When It’s Hard

If 2020 had a theme song, it would be the one from Tubthumping “I Get Knocked Down.” You know the one …”I get knocked down.. But I get up again..” But if there’s one lesson to be gleaned from all the ups and so many downs, it’s to be grateful for the times we can get back up. 

We’ve mastered sheltering in place, exercising in our living rooms and breadmaking (sort of). While it’s been exhausting, we’ve persevered together and found those bright spots in our new normal. That’s a lot to be thankful for, don’t you think?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s a reminder to take a moment each day to step away from the bad and take stock of the good by practicing gratitude. 

What Does It Mean to Practice Gratitude?

Practicing gratitude is just that: a practice. It’s dedicating time each day to be appreciative of all the big and the small parts of your life that sustain and inspire you and finding ways to pay it forward.

This work starts by asking yourself: What are you proud of? What goals are you working on? And how do you communicate with yourself about those things? For Penn, it’s all about optimistic willpower. For me, it’s often about silencing my inner Regina George.

The second part of practicing gratitude is through acts of kindness towards others. Finding ways to engage more with your friends, family and community shows appreciation for all the ways they enrich your life and may help better someone else’s life in return. 

Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is excellent for our mental health. Taking time to be grateful each day helps reduce stress and fosters a more positive outlook over time. You’ll find yourself losing it less over the small things that go wrong (i.e. burnt dinner) and better able to recover from the big curveballs (i.e. homeschooling). 

That mental shift, in turn, supports your physical health. The benefits of managing stress are well documented and include better sleep, a stronger immune system and fewer blood pressure spikes. All of these benefits have ripple effects on how we feel day in and day out. As someone with anxiety, I know how tough it can be to find the good in all of life’s surprises and I certainly don’t wake up each day singing like Mary Poppins. But I also know how much better I feel when I make the effort to be less negative.

 

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude

Ready to give it a try? Here are 10 simple ways to practice gratitude more regularly:

  1. Journal — Before bed, make note of one thing that went right that day. It might just be that you got out of bed and took on the day, and that’s worth acknowledging.
  2. Meditate — It often feels like my to-list is tattooed inside my eyelids. I can’t escape it. But taking 10 minutes to shut it all out is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the positive.
  3. Volunteer — Choose an organization you’re passionate about and donate your time in person or offer to send emails or compose a newsletter at home.
  4. Write Letters — Remember snail mail? Heck, remember pens? Writing? Try sending a handwritten letter or postcard to a friend or family member.
  5. Cook — Show someone you’re grateful for them with a home cooked meal. It’s also a great way of showing your body you’re grateful for all it does each day.
  6. Donate — Donating money or goods is an act of kindness that can go a long way. Whether it’s $1 or a carload of old clothes, there are a lot of people in need right now.
  7. Get Outside — The Japanese have a practice called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which is all about spending time in nature to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.
  8. Check In — Ask the people in your life how they’re doing more often and see if there are ways you can help. Tell them you appreciate them, compliment them and listen to them.
  9. Remove Triggers — The #FOMO is real right now. Identify the behaviors that bring you down and try one of the options listed above instead.
  10. Be Mindful — “Check yo self before you…” Yeah, I can’t pull that off. Words matter. Those you say to others and to yourself. Try to avoid negative talk or complaining.

One thing I’m grateful for? All of you for being on this journey with our family. Let me know how you practice gratitude in the comments.

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