As the pandemic continues, it’s a good time to be forward-looking, optimistic and thankful for what we have in our lives.
Scientific studies show that regularly expressing gratitude increases personal happiness and resilience. Over time, it can positively affect our physical health, too. Gratitude causes a softening of the heart, which is mediated by the hormone oxytocin. This in turn causes us to feel increased care and compassion for others.
Express gratitude to others
But how can you experience and express gratitude in these tough times? Little things mean a lot. Here are some simple tips to try:
- Start your day by sending a quick gratitude email or text to someone you appreciate.
- Daily or weekly, jot down or think about three things you’re grateful for.
- Thank and praise those around you often – your family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors. It makes them feel good and you will, too.
- Give essential workers a smile and say thank you.
- Remind health care workers, store clerks, delivery people and others that we couldn’t get through these times without them.
- If possible, send a note, text or email.
- Encourage your children to create homemade thank you cards.
Look forward, cultivate optimism
Looking forward to something positive that’s going to happen and feeling grateful will bring a spark of positivity to your day. Being optimistic is a strong predictor of happiness.
During tough times it may seem difficult to identify anything positive to look forward to. However, it’s doubly important to do so to avoid negativity. Looking forward to your favorite things can make it feel more worthwhile and add bits of energy to your day. Being grateful for something even relatively small can help you feel more optimistic.
Here are few simple, everyday examples to look forward to:
- Eating a tasty meal or nutritious snack
- Making a warm cup of coffee or tea
- Reading a good book
- Spending time with children
- Participating in a favorite hobby or game
- Listening to music
- Watching a favorite show or movie
- Spending time outdoors
- Connecting with family and friends
Remember ‘I Spy with My Little Eye’?
This childhood game is played by identifying something you see that starts with each letter of the alphabet, one letter at a time. And, it’s a great way to practice gratitude. Give it a try on your next walk, when you have a quiet moment or when your mind is racing with uncertainty.
Here’s an example of how it might help you find things to be grateful for:
- APPLES in my refrigerator
- My BROTHER and his family are healthy
- My CHILDREN at play
- My DOG’s companionship
- The ENERGY to go on this walk
- My FANTASTIC coworkers
For another way to manage your mental wellness, participate in guided meditation through the LiveWell with the Advocate Aurora Health mobile app. Also get nutritious recipes and take health quizzes to help you live well.