4 simple gratitude practices to help you cope in these difficult times
You’re probably feeling a bunch of new and unpleasant emotions these days.
I know I am.
Watching the news makes me anxious and upset. I miss seeing my friends. I’m worried about loved ones. I don’t know what the future is going to bring.
But the beautiful thing about our minds is that we can actually choose the thoughts we think – and thereby create the emotions we feel.
So, in order to keep my sanity, these last several days, whenever I find myself thinking thoughts that create difficult emotions, I’ve been catching those thoughts and switching to thoughts of gratitude. “I miss my friends” creates sadness, which cascades into worry about the danger of this virus. I catch the thought and switch it: “I am so grateful and thankful for my wonderful friends.” And there’s a flash of happiness.
I don’t think this is selfish. As we’re all being called to spend much more time in our own company than most of us are used to, it’s important that we all tend to our own mental, as well as physical, health.
And, when we’re focused on gratitude, it’s impossible to be focused in that same moment on worry, anger, discomfort or fear.
Focusing on gratitude brings calmness, equanimity, even happiness, as we realize that there is much that’s still right with the world, even in the middle of this crisis. Here are four simple practices that I’ve been finding helpful to shift into gratitude and thus bring more calmness into daily life:
1. Catch any negative, worry- or fear-inducing thoughts, stop them, and look around for something you’re grateful for right now. As mentioned above, this practice helps keep worry, sadness and fear in check. “Day five stuck inside and I can’t stand it!” becomes “I am so grateful and thankful for my comfortable home; I am so grateful and thankful I can do my part to keep my community safe.” Or, even, “I am so grateful I stocked up on my favorite snacks!” And then, it also helps to add, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
2. Notice and be grateful for the abundance all around. Rather than focusing on difficult losses and hardships we may be experiencing, it’s helpful to take a look around and acknowledge and give thanks for everything we still have. “I am so grateful and thankful for the abundance of friends I can connect with by phone.” “I am so grateful and thankful for the abundance of food in my pantry.” “I am so grateful and thankful for the money I have in my pocket.” Thank you, thank you, thank you!
3. When you wake up in the morning, think first of ten things you’re grateful for. When we first wake up is when our subconscious minds are most suggestible and open to changing habitual patterns of thinking. So, rather than falling immediately into a continuation of yesterday’s thoughts, make a conscious effort to start each day on a new and positive note. This practice may seem difficult at first, but, remember, we can use this time to express gratitude for everything from simple things – how comfortable this pillow is; how nice it was to get some rest – to the most profound – that your family is safe and you have plenty to eat. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
4. Give thanks for the outcomes you’re hoping for. To shift our focus from worst-case scenarios, we can also practice giving thanks for what we wish for – and then feeling as grateful as if that outcome has already happened. “Thank you for helping me and others make wise decisions to aid in keeping myself and others well.” “Thank you that this crisis has made us realize our interconnectedness.” “Thank you for keeping my family safe.” Thank you, thank you, thank you!
As we navigate this crisis together, if we can make gratitude a habit of thought, I believe we’ll weather the storm with equanimity and grace – and come out even stronger than before.