“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
2020 has already brought immense strain and stress on many individuals and families. Not only are we dealing with COVID-19, but the holidays can also bring sadness, isolation, uncertainty, and fear to many people. This holiday season will look different for everyone, and preparing for the differences can ease the intensity of emotions we may feel. Gratitude is a skill that many researchers have found to be helpful. It can have positive short-term effects in the present, and research has shown more benefits after several weeks of consistent practice. Gratitude is defined as a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for aspects of life.
Benefits of gratitude:
- Creates the disconnect to negative emotions and patterns of rumination
- Linked to lower levels of depression and preventative for future depressive episodes
- Enhances positive mental states of joy, optimism, and tranquility
- Higher satisfaction with life
- Better sleep with lower fatigue
- Improved physical health
- Greater resiliency
- Encourages development of patience, humility, and wisdom
How can we express gratitude:
- Daily gratitude journal to reflect
- 3 things you’re grateful for
- Reflecting on hardships versus present moment
- Think about someone you are grateful for in your life
- Gratitude meditation (practice staying in present moment)
- Write a letter, note, email, or text to someone you are grateful for
- Practice saying thank you to others (coworkers, acquaintances, family, friends)
- Create a gratitude jar or board in your home or office to log daily appreciation
- Create a virtual gratitude board to share with family and friends (i.e Miro)
- Be mindful of senses and how they give you experiences
- Donate to others (food, objects, crafts)
- Small gifts to others for them to think of you when they use it (self-care, tie, scarves, etc)
There are a variety of creative ways to implement gratitude into a weekly or daily practice, and there are just a few listed above. One I personally use is writing down “3 of my favorite moments of the day” in a journal to note the small or big aspects of a day. I’ve noticed this impact me on even the most stressful day in a positive way. It helps me stay present and see that there is still exciting and enjoyable moments. My family has also always engaged in listing things we are grateful for prior to eating at Thanksgiving dinner. Even though this holiday will look different for us, I know we will continue this even virtually throughout the week of the holiday, and it is something we look forward to each year.
The holidays can bring many emotions and stressors into our lives, and with COVID, it adds another layer on top. It is important to continue to reflect and acknowledge what and who we do have to help us in these trying and ever-changing times.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety or depression this holiday season, we are here to help. Please reach out to us at The OCD & Anxiety Center, for a free 15-minute consultation at 630-522-3124.
Stephanie Pruefer, LCPC, CADC is a licensed therapist at The OCD & Anxiety Center in Oak Brook and Orland Park, IL. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy for anxiety, OCD, and anxiety-related disorders. She is comfortable working with children and adults and is able to provide treatment both in the office and outside of the office, wherever anxiety happens.