With an international crisis upon us, many are grasping to regain a sense of control—or at least feel hopeful that this pandemic shall pass sooner rather than later. Although the enormous impact of the coronavirus continues to grow and will be felt for months ahead, there are things that we can control in these times of uncertainty and increased anxiousness.
The first and biggest one is our response. We can choose to quiet our fearful thoughts and emotions. This act alone may seem small, especially when you may be cooped up, have a business whose doors have closed, or you're watching economic security dissipate. Still, anything that can help calm us will also assist us in making better decisions and support us emotionally to weather the storm.
The second action of self-empowerment is a simple tool that can be applied by everyone: GRATITUDE.
Its power stands apart as one of the most remarkable and assessable remedies available and can be used by children and adults alike. (A daily gratitude ritual would be uplifting in families confined to their homes.) Science has published numerous studies on gratitude, showing that expressing it increases well-being and positive emotions. By calling to mind our appreciation, we can keep top of mind what is most important to each of us. Gratitude will also offset the psychological disorientation caused by having all our self-care and social routines uprooted, such as, working out at the gym, dining at your favorite restaurant, or meeting a friend for coffee.
How we feel usually determines what comes next—our actions and behavior. Now is a time to keep yourselves encouraged! Keep your composure and find new routines. Creating a new norm is vital to assist us in this psychological upheaval. For parents, it's crucial to remain calm and create stability for children and teens in the home. You are the glue that keeps the family together!
Related reading: "Moods and Actions" by Seth Godin
As human beings, it’s natural to seek safety and want to avoid uncomfortable stresses, such as the reality of the COVID-19. However, when we deny what's happening or let our minds run away with fear, we work against ourselves. Yes, we want to prepare and take precautions, but fear does not make the situation change. Fear magnifies the stress if left unchecked, often causing the mind to spin worst-case scenarios that increase anxiety.
Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude to Find Your Balance
Without mindfulness and a disciplined mindset, our survival brain can steal away all the many things we have to be grateful for in our lives right now. For instance, imagine being confined without the ability to connect with those we love. Technology not only allows us to communicate with loved ones but to get instant updates, work virtually at home safely, order supplies and medications online, have FaceTime with friends, and support one another via social media, emails, and blogs. What a blessing!
There is nothing simpler that can relieve stress and replenish our spirits faster than gratitude. In the current disruption, being grateful is even more important in keeping our balance. A gratitude practice is a free, easy, and feel-good action that is scientifically shown to:
- increase happiness
- enhance health
- give more restful sleep
- shift negativity to a positive attitude
- replace anxious or depressing thoughts
- boost resiliency
- promote kindness
These are only a few of the benefits! Need more convincing? Pick whatever study you’d like to read. Below are several:
Gratitude instantly expands your awareness and shifts your attention from the negative to what is positive in your life, even during a stressful time.
Last week, I committed to my own version of a gratitude practice. Whenever any discouraging comment leaves my lips or a concern ripples across my mind, I bring to mind and say out loud three reasons I have to be grateful in that moment. Each time, I require the items to be different than the ones named before; it's like a game that requires my mind to think differently. Converting concerns to gratitude has helped me develop a more hopeful and positive attitude.
Another great ritual is to keep a gratitude journal and refer to it when you’re feeling down or afraid. Gratitude is not just a pleasant emotion. Gratitude holds power to take control back and enables you to be the captain of your own mind and emotions.
When practiced regularly, expressing appreciation can be an amazing stress relief and a life-changing experience. I encourage each of you to make gratitude a daily practice, especially in these challenging times. Its benefits make it one of the most powerful actions you can take. There are very few things that can shift emotions faster—and it's backed by science.
Make gratitude a habit.
If you're willing to try a gratitude practice, commit to expressing it several times a day. Experience the shifts for yourself that will help support you through hard times and expand the joy and pleasure in good times.