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Finding Strength in Practicing Gratitude

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It may feel difficult to escape the constantly emerging news coverage of COVID-19 and the related stress of feeling isolated as we’re encouraged to embrace social distancing.

Inner peace is possible if we use time purposefully to practice gratitude. Mindfully focusing on being grateful helps renew hope and shift perspective, which contribute to healing and calming during times of uncertainty.

When we practice gratitude, it can give us the perspective we need to remember that our challenges are only temporary– even during an odd, unprecedented time of social distancing. There is always something to be grateful for. Besides, social distancing doesn’t have to mean disconnection. There are so many ways to stay connected.

Whether you’re in recovery from a substance use disorder or struggling with other personal challenges– like stress, relationship problems, economic hardship, mental health issues, illness and/or grief– gratitude can be a vital tool. It can help us feel centered and mindful, allowing us to redirect our energy from despair to focusing on the bigger picture of life’s possibilities.

If you’re looking for ways to find inner peace and build strength, here are some ways you can incorporate gratitude into your life:

Keep a Gratitude Journal: By writing a daily gratitude list or journaling, we can retrain the neural pathway in our brains to see the positives in life rather than the negatives. Instilling it as a daily habit keeps the technique top of mind, so when adversity strikes or difficult situations arise, we have the resilience and “gratitude repertoire” to keep things in perspective and heal more quickly. Sarah Ban Breathnach’s best-selling book, Simple Abundance, helped to bring this recovery tool into the mainstream and can be a resource for those beginning their gratitude journey.

Celebrate Small Victories: One of the wonderful elements of recovery is the emphasis on understanding the importance of celebrating small victories. If it’s an accomplishment for a person battling depression to do a load of laundry, then celebrate that load of laundry. If you pick up a pen to write an entry in a gratitude journal but find yourself at a loss for what to write, celebrate picking up the pen. Part of the secret to serenity during this time of high expectations is to set reasonable goals for ourselves. What comes easily to some doesn’t always come easily to others. It is important to be grateful for the small things as well as the big.

Notice the Gratitude of Others: The practice of gratitude goes beyond what we are thankful for. In fact, it extends to the profound experience of observing other people being grateful, especially during a struggle. That can be deeply powerful as well as motivational.

Pay It Forward: Inspire others with your sense of gratitude. Even the simplest acts of kindness can incite the feeling of community and remind others that they matter. Call or FaceTime for a personal and instant connection or send a note or text message at your leisure. Checking on a loved one or reaching out to someone who is currently restricted from going out or having visitors can feed the soul. Knowing that you’re lifting another’s spirit may also lift your own. Stay engaged on social media where you can read and share inspirational quotes to focus on the positive.

Identify one positive step toward gratitude you can do today and make it happen. Embrace a healthy attitude of gratitude – and share it with the world around you!

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