The Power of Gratitude
The Pandemic has refocused our lives. The restrictions have created a different way of living, a new perspective and reflection process. For some of us, the treadmill of life has slowed down, for some, it has stopped completely and for some new ways of working. The family dynamics have altered as social distancing and staying within the family home and not mixing is in place. The sense of loss is felt in several areas of life, it can be through the death of loved ones, a loss of the workplace environment as furlough schemes and working from home increases and the loss of physical face to face contact with loved ones as we move to virtual meetups to stay in contact. The loss of identity and lifestyles as life changes. Even though there is an understanding of why this has had to happen, the uncertainty can be overwhelming.
The How of Happiness
In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book ‘The How of Happiness’ (2010), she offers lots of activities that you can apply to your life to increase and sustain happiness in your life. It is at times like this during the pandemic when things sometimes feel difficult, that taking some action can help cultivate positive thinking, motivation and a sense of faith.
The one I have found powerful at this time is expressing gratitude. I am a secondary school teacher and the changes made to Education have been tough. These changes are essential but working within an industry already known for excessive stress and burnout rates, the pressure has increased and to stop it imploding on my mental health as a negative effect, I have implemented certain strategies to help maintain my well-being. Expressing gratitude is something that I already applied in my life, but I have given it a daily presence. Lyubomirsky states that gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions. It is a sense of thankfulness and appreciation for life.
Gratitude in the present moment
By focusing on gratitude, it allows you to be in the present moment, somewhere that the past and the future does not reside in. Lyubomirsky states people who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic and more hopeful and to report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. It is for this reason that I have increased the amount of Gratitude I use in my life. The pressure is high offering the conditions for burnout. Therefore, the need to cultivate more well-being interventions in my life. When time is precious it so easy to not have enough time for everything and I am used to putting on hold those things that actually help create positive mental health, like exercise, taking walks in nature, taking regular breaks and the list goes on. This time I made sure that I kept all these important things in my life, as so many changes were happening, I knew it was very important to do whatever I can to ensure I enhanced positivity into my life, so I could still turn up for my students with that brightness they deserve.
I keep a gratitude journal and write all the things that I am thankful for each day. It is good for refocusing the mind on the good side of life. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the uncomfortable parts of life, but it helps you remain a balanced view of life. Lyubomirsky states when a person is more inclined to gratitude, the less likely she or he is to be depressed, anxious and lonely. Now, this gratitude journal does not transform you overnight. It is a process. It happens over time. It needs to be a consistent process, a skill developed daily for optimum results. It is like going to the gym weekly to sustain and improve your physical health. Your mental health needs to be treated the same. It does not just work itself into a positive trajectory. Mental Well-being needs to be nurtured, cultivated and embedded into your lifestyle. It does not mean you are bulletproof to the adversities of life, but it does help build resilience, positive emotions and more mindfulness into your life.
Every day there is something to be grateful for. It might not always be the big stuff, but the smaller ones. These smaller ones happen every day and even though some days are tougher than others, these small moments of gratitude have a big impact.
Read more about Kelly Seaward-Ding and her other articles HERE
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