COVID. Job loss. Shortages. And social quarantines back just in time for the holiday season. It seems that there are so many reasons to be down right now. We may even wonder if there is any reason at all to be thankful in 2020. The answer is yes. And now more than ever.
The truth is a grateful heart keeps us focused on the bigger picture so that when adversity strikes, we don’t lose ourselves in the process. And science supports an attitude of gratitude. Recent studies show that expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods, and even the survival of our close relationships.
If gratitude is so good for us, then why do so few people practice it? Many would say that life just gets in the way and we end up getting stuck in a cycle where we become a pro at not feeling good. After all, what we think, we become. If we constantly focus on negative things, that is how we are going to feel — anxious, depressed and frustrated. Thinking negative thoughts and feeling good about ourselves just don’t go together.
On the other hand, being grateful for what we already have (instead of dwelling on what we don’t have) helps us focus on the positive. In doing this, our mood lightens and our overall outlook on life improves. A lot of us, especially those in helping professions, tend to focus on showing love to others, but what about us? Self-love is a form of gratitude, too. When we turn our attention inward and are grateful for who we are and how far we’ve come, we experience the truest form of happiness. It’s good for our physical health, too. Being grateful and appreciative of what we have makes us feel calmer, more resilient, and connected with ourselves.
Perhaps author Melody Beattie said it best — “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
So, how do we turn it around? Here are some tips for strengthening the “gratitude muscle”:
- Make a list of reasons to be grateful.
- Tell whoever you are with right now (significant other, friend, family member, co-worker) the 3 things that you are most grateful for in this moment.
- Wake up tomorrow with a conscious focus on everything that is positive and then express that gratitude in an active way.
- As part of your new gratitude habit acknowledge yourself for what you have done and accomplished this year. Instead of comparing yourself to others, give yourself credit for the big and small things you have been doing!
And on that note, Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse wants to thank you, our reader, for standing with us to improve behavioral health equity. We are thankful for you.