The last two years have been traumatic for even the most well-adjusted individuals. Between a pandemic, closed schools, the Ukrainian crisis, high gas prices, inflation, job losses, and all the uncertainty that goes along with it, it’s no wonder why we feel exhausted and depressed. For the first time in decades, we are unsure that our children will have a better future than us. We are all individually and collectively affected by this type of national stress. Combatting it may seem difficult, if not impossible.
One powerful weapon we always have against hard times is gratitude. Yet, how can we be grateful when we aren’t sure how to pay for gas next week or if our kids will be able to attend the school they want? While it’s not always easy to remain grateful during hard times, it’s a critical practice that will help put things in perspective. It also allows us to maintain a level head and not let the worst of life destroy us.
Benefits of Gratitude
Experts have done study after study on how grateful individuals fare over their less grateful counterparts. The scientifically-proven benefits are quite incredible. According to Psychology Today, gratitude helps us win new friends and improve relationships, enhance our physical and psychological health, increase empathy and reduce aggression, sleep better, improve confidence, and increase mental clarity.
People think that their circumstances make them unable to cultivate gratitude, but this is untrue. Research shows that each person is capable of developing a grateful attitude regardless of how bad things are going. Sometimes the people who have the least are the most grateful because they had to develop that skill to overcome very challenging traumas. Remember too that what we have and don’t have is always relative to what another person has or doesn’t have.
Tips to Cultivate a Grateful Spirit
Since we now know the many scientifically-proven benefits of gratitude, there’s clearly no incentive to remain ungrateful or negative. But how can we change the way we perceive situations and adjust our thinking, especially if we’ve been ungrateful for quite some time? While it’s certainly not easy to adjust our thought processes, we are just as capable of change as anyone else. It simply takes discipline, determination, and an ability to remain level-headed. Here are some top tips:
· Keep a Journal – Write down a list of every good thing in your life, along with a list of good things that happen each day, no matter how small. Review the list when you feel low and focus on the good parts of each day rather than the bad.
· Remember Overcoming Bad Circumstances – Remembering how you overcame past bad circumstances can help you put current problems in perspective. In many cases, time does heal all wounds. Also, things can seem particularly bad one day but turn out to not be that big of a deal the next.
· Watch What You Read and Listen To – Negativity and bad news sells. Constantly reading negative news articles or fearful information will make you think that everything is awful. You’ll forget the good parts of life because you are so focused on the bad. While it’s important to remain informed, obsessing over bad news is not going to help you feel grateful. Rather than read about something, take action. Learn how you can make a difference in something that interests you.
· Savor the Good Moments – When good things happen, enjoy them. Too often, we gloss over the joys of life and downplay them. A nice walk, a fresh cup of coffee, or a beautiful flower are all things to be grateful for.
· Learn About Others’ Suffering – It’s hard to feel ungrateful when you read about someone worse off than you. We often take for granted simple privileges like having enough food and water or sleeping in a bed.
· Stay in the Moment – Staying in the moment prevents us from worrying. It also helps us cultivate a grateful attitude. When we are focused on what we are doing right now, we are more appreciative of everything around us. Planning is important but so is living in the precious present moment.
· Go Without for a Day or Week – Perform an experiment in which you go without something for one day or a week that you normally take for granted. During that time, think about how hard it is to go without that item. When you go back to it, you’ll appreciate it much more.