The Best Thing You Can Do For Yourself, Even When It All Sucks
Updated: Jul 4
As we continue to move through the experience of living within an overwhelmingly homebound society in the midst of a global pandemic many of us are ricocheting between opposing stances and feelings.
“This is so hard, and lonely. I’m so stressed. This is awful”
“I have my health. My family is safe. We’re economically secure. I have nothing to complain about.”
While dealing with the stress and uncertainty of COVID-19 and the resulting economic upheaval, many of us are experiencing a great deal of tension, anxiety, sadness, fear, and loss. At the same time, many of us also feel guilty for having these feelings because we know that so many others are suffering more acutely than we are. The challenge for all of us is to strike a balance between recognizing our authentic and reasonable grief and pain while not letting ourselves become consumed by these difficult emotions.
One of the most helpful ways that we can find this difficult balance is to implement a gratitude practice to help us to shift our perspective and expand our focus on the good in our experience. According to Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, a gratitude practice has been proven to improve not only people’s moods but also their short and long-term physical health and wellness and their relationships with the people around them.
Electing to focus on gratitude does not mean ignoring, dismissing, or diminishing our difficult experiences. Rather, a gratitude practice is about turning our attention to the good that remains in our experience, despite our pain and sorrow, however granular that recognition may be.
This recognition can take the form of simply centering, focusing on, and appreciating sensual pleasures in the moment. Simply attuning ourselves to the sweet scent of blooming lilacs, the sensation of a warm breeze, the feel of an impossibly soft blanket, the sound of laughing child, or watching the colors of a beautiful sunset, can serve as a gratitude practice. By taking a pause and leaning into these fleeting sensations as they happen we can actually shift our experience in the moment and become calmer and more centered.
A gratitude practice can also take the form of recognizing and expressing appreciation for how other people enrich your experience and your life. This can include thanking a child for their cooperation during a difficult part of the day, acknowledging your partner for a specific kindness that they have shown to you, or reaching out to a friend and letting them know how much you have always appreciated how much they make you laugh. By attuning to these particular encounters we improve our own experience while simultaneously enriching our connections to others.
The most tangible expression of a gratitude practice is keeping a gratitude journal. By taking time each day to reflect on the good of the day and capturing those experiences, exchanges, and events the significance and positive impact of these episodes are concretely affirmed and recognized within our own minds. This practice not only helps to recognize and expand the positive within our lives, it also helps us to seek out value, meaning, and purpose, even in the face of challenges and pain. This shift has been shown to not only enrich people’s positive perceptions of what they have already experienced but also increases their commitment to ongoing habits and improves their outlook for the future.
See how it feels to take some time to experience, express, and record these moments for yourself. You deserve the energy, connection, and pleasure of indulging in the experience of gratitude and appreciation. Today is the perfect time to start.
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