Be grateful. Give thanks. Count your blessings.
Being thankful during a pandemic has certainly proven a difficult task for many, including myself. As a freelance artist there have been so many moments of uncertainty, fear, and panic. When will I go back to work? Will I be able to financially support myself? When I do return to work, what will that look like and will I be safe? We have all been through a rollercoaster of emotions lately and it’s probably been hard to focus on the ‘silver lining’ of this whole situation that we have collectively been through. Businesses have closed, weddings were cancelled, lives were lost. We are all grieving something…even if it is simply ‘the way things were’.
As the world begins to open up again and we embark on embracing a ‘new normal’, I find myself reflecting on the past few months. What can I learn from all of this? What is the big takeaway? To my surprise, the answer I am finding…is gratitude.
Think about the things you missed while in quarantine. Everyday things you once took for granted and never really had to think about because they were always there as an option. Perhaps it’s meeting up with friends and family, working out at the gym, eating at your favorite restaurant. This time in quarantine, for me anyways, has been an opportunity to take a pause and pay closer attention to these everyday moments, attuning myself to more chances to be grateful.
One of the things I miss the most is being able to travel. It’s something I look forward to every summer – whether it’s a road trip, discovering a local hidden gem, or flying out to Vancouver to teach dance. Right now I am supposed to be in Europe, visiting my sister who lives there and who recently had a baby. There was going to be a wedding, there was going to be incredible food, there was going to be quality time spent with loved ones. My whole family would be together and we would finally be able to meet our newest member! It’s been a hard pill to swallow, and I absolutely have had feelings of sadness and anger over not having the chance to experience these things – especially holding my niece. But when I think about all of the video chats I’ve been able to have with her during this time, I am grateful. I am so thankful for the technology that has allowed me to watch my niece grow over the past 4 months, and to witness my sister as a new mom. Is it perfect? No. Do I wish it was different? Yes. But this is something I cannot control…so I’m choosing to be thankful for what I have.
This is not easy. Practicing gratitude, especially in difficult times, is something that takes…well, practice. It’s something that you actively have to think about, and train yourself to notice, even when it may seem impossible. But the benefits can be immense and once you get going, it’s actually easier than you might think. In fact, just thinking about things that you are grateful for can boost your energy and put you in a better mood. When we think more positively, a part of our brain fires and sends out a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone, dopamine.
So, how do we practice gratitude and potentially create more feelings of happiness?
Here are a few things I like to do:
- Every morning, name 3 things you are grateful for – This is something I heard on a podcast once and I started trying it. Wake up, and say 3 things, out loud, that you are grateful for. You will start your day with positive thoughts and will most likely carry them with you. I like to do this with my husband! It doesn’t happen everyday but when it does, I find I’m always in a much more positive mood. Try it with a partner, your roommate, or even get your kids involved!
- Keep a gratitude journal – Write down a few things that happened throughout your day that made you feel good. Had time to catch up with a friend you lost touch with? Write it down. Finally able to take a yoga class with a real live teacher? Add it to the list. How did you feel when experiencing these moments? Write for 5, 10, or 20 minutes. Keeping a journal is a great way to creatively express things you are grateful for, and you can look back fondly on all of the awesome things that happen in your life…every single day.
- Thank You Notes – Yes, just like the ones that Jimmy Fallon writes to inanimate objects and silly situations. I love to write messages on sticky notes and leave them in the bathroom for my husband to find. Try writing one to yourself, put it in a random coat pocket, and see how you feel when you discover it 4 months down the road! These mini mood boosters will not only make you feel good, but will surely put a smile on the face of anyone you write them to!
- Smile. Say Thank You – Easy! When you say the words, genuinely mean them. Feel the dopamine flow…
These are incredible times we are living in and we are all navigating through them in our own ways. Through it all, I have chosen to remain gentle on myself and on others. With the ebb and flow of emotions, it’s easy to get down on yourself or be quick to judge others for choices they make. By giving thanks, we can remind ourselves of all the wonderful things we have, the great people we are surrounded by, and the strength we have to overcome any obstacle. By practicing gratitude, we can open ourselves up to be more compassionate and empathic, in order to move forward with more open hearts and open minds.