Let’s put all our cards on the table: In far too many ways, 2020 has been a no-good, terrible, rotten, very bad year. And yet, we now find ourselves standing at the threshold of the holiday season, a time that exudes festive expressions of gratitude and good cheer.
This Thanksgiving, many of us will find ourselves wondering: How do we put ourselves in a thankful mindset in the midst of change and difficulty?
Perhaps the first step toward gratitude this year, then, is to give ourselves a break. Mindfulness coach Elizabeth Su puts it succinctly: “If you are having a hard time feeling grateful right now, don’t beat yourself up.” It’s more important to accept your true feelings and process them, she suggests, than to pretend to feel something that you don’t. Be kind to yourself; in time, that self-kindness may extend to others and your outlook will improve.
Furthermore, studies have shown that an attitude of thankfulness can not only reduce mental stress, but can also improve sleep, enhance self-esteem, and boost physical health. To support a personal gratitude practice, mental health counselors often recommend keeping a gratitude journal, with a goal of recording at least three reasons for gratitude every morning and night.
Gratitude, after all, is most often about life’s mundane contents: food on the table, friends on the phone, a pleasant view from a window, a safe place to lay our head. Over time, we tend to take those things for granted. But by consciously giving thanks for these everyday experiences, we can begin to appreciate them again. And according to an article in Berkeley University’s Greater Good Magazine, when we’re able to do that, we give our happiness a little boost and train our brains to see the good, even amid so much bad.
It’s also worth remembering: This, too, shall pass. The world has seen more than its share of global crises – wars, financial collapse, even other pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu – and yet we are still here. Humanity has shown a remarkable capacity to bounce back and move forward. There could even be a silver lining to our current predicament: More than ever, we are forced to contemplate what really matters … and in many cases, we are finding the things that really matter are not things at all.
From that perspective, it’s easy to find much to give thanks for – everything from our adorable pets to Zoom technology!
As Thanksgiving 2020 approaches, it’s the perfect time to reflect: What are you grateful for?