Gratitude When the Future Looks Cloudy

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

November is traditionally known as a month to show our gratitude. In the northern hemisphere it’s the end of the harvest and a time to pause. Little wonder that Remembrance Day (Canada), Veteran’s Day (U.S.) and the U.S. Thanksgiving are celebrated in November.

But 2020 has sometimes made it difficult to find that place of gratitude inside ourselves. Because of COVID and the separation it has caused most of us feel some level of stress.  Many of us are separated from loved ones. There has been heartbreaking loss as well as uncertainty about employment. Others are barely hanging on to their businesses or have simply given up. Not exactly a banner year.  

Gratitude may seem like a strange topic right now until you realize this is exactly when we need a spirit of thankfulness.  Gratitude shifts our focus away from what we may have lost. It is an expression of thanks for what we still have.

According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Learn more

That’s a pretty good list of what we need to get through this pandemic and back to normal living.

No matter how much you think you can multi-task, your brain only holds one thought at a time. When you think about what you’re grateful for, there’s no room for negative thoughts and emotions.

So how can you bring a little more gratitude into your own life?

  1. Write thank-you notes.

In this day of emails and instant messaging, a handwritten note is special. In addition, the act of writing accesses a different area of your brain than typing out your words.

2. Keep a gratitude journal.

Reflect on your blessings and why they are important to you. Ask yourself What went right?

Again, the act of writing is powerful. Plus, when you have a bad day, you can review your journal and remind yourself about what you’re thankful for.

3. Say thank you.

When someone does something kind, be sure to thank them. Especially your family.   Human beings tend to repeat actions that bring a positive response. If you want more kindness in the world, then start by acknowledging it when it happens in your own life.

4. Pray or meditate.

These practices can help you develop a deeper sense of gratitude. Because you are deliberately taking time to practice prayer or meditation, you pay closer attention to your thoughts. Use this time to focus on the word ‘gratitude’ or specific things you are grateful for.

Something doesn’t have to be a big deal for you to feel gratitude. It might be the warmth of the sun, a cat’s purr or the taste of coffee. Even on the worst of days, try to find one thing that’s good in your life and focus on that.    

 Although this may feel contrived to you at first, this positive mental state grows stronger with use and practice along with the benefits.