How to practise gratitude this winter – and beat the COVID-19 blues

One thing I’ve learned to practise this year of years is gratitude. For some this comes from instinct, but for many others (myself included) it takes some practise to achieve – having a host of benefits for our bodies, relationships and most importantly minds.

In many studies over the past 17 years it has been seen to be a key component of psychological well-being, with people feeling more joy, optimism, pleasure and being ‘happier’. Socially, they are reported to be generous, compassionate and more helpful – even feeling less isolated and lonely and physically, they had better sleep (who doesn’t want this?) and stronger immune systems.

Why is this so powerful and needs my full attention you may be asking? Well … gratitude allows us to focus on the present; diverting attention away from negative thoughts/emotions such as envy, resentment and regret – providing a greater sense of self worth.

Here are the five suggestions that I was given to practise this:

  1. Keep a gratitude diary – There’s always something to be grateful for, no matter how difficult life becomes. The action of writing them down (daily is best, yes … try and implement this into your routine, you’ll thank me later) in a notebook, on you computer or there are even apps to do this! The best app I’ve seen so far is ‘Gratitude: Diary, Vision Board’ – it allows you to create a journal, vision/mood boards, plus much more; including setting reminders to get that daily habit in check. Remember this is specific to you, the ideas placed within these journals are as unique as you are, ranging from something large as a job promotion to something ‘seemingly’ small; such as you got to hold hands with a loved one or the way the morning light came through your window. There is so much evidence that an activity like this can reduce stress and induce calming feelings – plus most importantly at the moment help you to refocus on what really matters to you.
  2. Take a gratitude walk – We all know that getting up and moving is beneficial for both our physical and mental health, so why not combine this with practising gratitude to make a powerful tool. Take a few minutes out of your day to put on some boots and get outdoors to somewhere you enjoy or you find thought provoking. Constantly think over “What am I grateful for in my life?” whilst reconnecting with your surroundings and grounding yourself. Some people are able to take a partner along with them who they trust well and spend the time taking it in turn to share what they are grateful for.
  3. Giving thanks online – Ranging from a daily post; maybe a picture of what makes you smile, a weekly reflection of what went right or maybe due to the time of year what has kept you going through 2020. Sharing online is an amazing way to gather a sense of community, find that needed support or inspire someone else to take up gratitude practise (possibly changing their life) – you will be a ‘warrior’ against the constant anxiety provoking material surfacing. Please, only do this if it feel right to you – don’t plaster your life over social media in a hope to change things if this is going to exacerbate issues. Gratitude does not have to be public and may be more beneficial if kept private.
  4. Practise everyday gratitude – This never has to be a standalone project, but a practise you should implement into everyday life. Actively thanking and showing gratitude in your community – shopkeepers, attendants, bus drivers, teachers or doctors – reminds us all of our interconnectedness, especially in a year that has been and continues to be distance inducing. Within American culture there is a massive aspect of gratitude and respect – which living in the UK I personally am fond of and wish we had. Reflect on this and join with your family, friends or flatmates, to share what you are grateful for before you eat. This is a more difficult task than the others as requires you to be transparent and brave but could be the most rewarding, providing opportunity for personal growth, to learn something new about those around you (including your relationships) and to remind you of the love that helped you through.
  5. Focus on the positive – Nurturing your gratitude practises works to give us a positive perspective. Even in 2020, when for many the world seemed to be falling apart at the seams – it is important to remind ourselves that positive developments constantly occur everyday alongside negative ones, we can see that we all hold the power to change for the better an support those around us.

At a Crossroad?

Recently in life; especially since going back to work after lockdown, I haven’t felt the happiest that I could have been with my current life choices and I realise that the only person who has the power to change my life path. From this confusion, I sat down and started to think about decision making itself managing to break it down into six different topics.

1 – Realise the power of decisions – First it is best to understand what a decision does, there are a series of chain events and reactions which will be caused from making a decision. Every moment of every day we all make decisions, most are small and inconsequential, but some can be life-altering.

2 – Go with your gut – often, we take way too much time to make a decision as we are worried about the consequences. I am a terrible culprit of this, over thinker alert! The quicker we start to make decisions, the less time we spend in decision paralysis. If you can push past the fear and doubts associated with decision making, you are able to start taking control of your life’s outcomes. Begin to learn your gut and what your instinct is telling you. Your instinct is usually the correct answer for you but more importantly it’s usually the one you truly want to go for. It may be hard to understand at present whilst making the decision but learning to go with your gut makes you a more confident decision maker and mistakes are all an important learning curve.

3 – Carry the decision out – when you make a decision, it is imperative and vital to commit to that decision and to carry out the actions provided to achieve the desired outcome. It is pointless to make a decision but only play out the scenario in your head, this could be seen as the equivalent of mot making a decision at all. If real changes are to be made, the best way I’ve found to achieve this is by creating habits however big or small, this implements the decision made and through repetitive structure you will have so much more confidence to accomplish the main goal of the decision or the next decision.

4 – Talk to others about your decision – Most people will say the same regarding this, telling someone about your goals and ambitions will provide a small amount of pressure or moral obligation to uphold and produce results. This really helps with decisions that require more than just willpower to complete, or talking through life decisions with someone else can help you to understand what you really want to and iron out some of those wrinkles. Will the other people really care or understand your situation? Probably not but most will be happy to lend an ear of provide some advice for your situation, but even the really small changes/decisions; the fact that you have told someone else will give you the motivation to get through.

5 – Learn from your past – When I have ‘failed’ before (using the term fail loosely, as its more about experience and learning) to follow up on the decision I’ve created for myself, I would ask myself “what can I do differently to achieve this next time?” whether that be; Tomorrow, Next Week or Next Year. The true trick is to never get up, sounds cheesy but it is significant to personal development to strive to meet your dreams/targets. No one has ever made a decision and it has gone swimmingly well, there will always be time where it slips or you ‘mess up’ (trust me, we have always been there). Never beat yourself up for this, accept that it has happened and learn from it. Just ask yourself, what went wrong and how can you change this for next time.

6 – And follow a flexible approach – this may sound backwards, but making a decision does not mean that you should cement a specific approach to achieve this. Being open and not stubborn to your decision journey will help you to embrace new knowledge and methods, making you a better-rounded person and will bring you closer to your initial decision.

Due to taking the time to analyse decisions themselves and to write my thoughts down, I have come to my own decision for my immediate life plan and I hope by reading this you will be more settled in your decision making too.

25 Before 25

“Firstly we would like to know a bit about you, introduce yourself”, this is the worst thing I can be asked to do in an interview as I never know what to say. Well, Last month on 23rd August I turned 22, I know I don’t look a day over 16 (I joke, I’m aging faster than I had hoped for). But with this in mind I started to think about the future, which began to scare me a little and I had to ground myself shortly after – but I wanted to have at least a few aims to complete before I hit the next decade of my life. So the ’25 before 25’ list was born:

1 – Move abroad for at least six months – this is probably a big ask over the next three years but it’s always good to have high ambitions for a few things in life, right?

2 – Become a Connoisseur of Tea – something everyone will tell you about me is that I am obsessed with tea, just standard tea (sometimes a redbush or seasonal bag can get used) and I would love to be able to learn more about tea and the tea making process

3 – Cooking Masterclass – I would love to be able to go and learn exactly how to use the utensils in my kitchen and be able to ‘whip up’ something incredible to impress guests with

4 – Go to a really fancy restaurant – following on from the last goal this would be the next best experience, to be able to taste and see what Micheline stars are made of

5 – Let Go of the Past (Stop holding grudges) – use this time to challenge myself in learning from the past but also in turn not letting it define my future, it needs to be left in the past

6 – Admire Myself – Learn to love myself as to quote Ru Paul, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

7 – Be a Part of History – Start standing up for what I believe in and hopefully make a difference however small that may be

8 – Learn Yoga – I feel like this would be very beneficial to my stressful and busy life, with the new yoga mat I asked for my birthday I literally have no excuse now

9 – Be debt free (definitely not student loans) – what I believe to be important is to take as minimal debt as possible to the next stage of life

10 – Go out more in the evenings – since finishing university and starting my mundane 9 to 5, I have become like a hermit and very rarely venture out in the evenings, needing to get out more and see friends/family

11 – Go Skinny Dipping – always something I’ve wanted to do but never found anyone to do it with

12 – Finally run that 5k – something I have always wanted to do, but have found myself too lazy to run or struggling with health

13 – Attempt to break a world record – not sure in what as of yet, probably something unique but I am going to do my research and get practising

14 – Go to a comedy night at a club – stand-up comedy is not really of interest to me but I do like a good comedy film, being a good sarcastic person myself, so it has made the list to blend both worlds together

15 – Volunteer for a good cause – I don’t feel like I give back enough, so I would like to find a cause that I would be able to throw myself into

16 – Learn a Language Thoroughly – I have always been obsessed with other languages but have never been able to force myself to thoroughly learn one

17 – Go and watch F1 racing – I have always wanted to experience the atmosphere of the races and to see the pit stop changes for myself

18 – Travel to the Asian continent – Next on the travel list has to be Japan I think

19 – Get a six pack and do a photoshoot to celebrate – A six pack for me would be when I am healthiest and achieved all my fitness goals

20 – Rough it up and go camping for a weekend – My colleagues and family would describe me as ‘prim and proper’, the idea of camping really worries me, but there’s a first time for everything

21 – Participate in La Tomatina – A festival that both disgusts but really intrigues me, so it’s on the list to step out of my comfort zone

22 – Study a Master’s Degree – there is a lot I would like to achieve in life but I am still unsure on what path to take, these next few years (hopefully with your help) will give me some direction. Well, I hope!

23 – Write a children’s book – or if not a children’s book maybe a regular one

24 – See what life is like as a blonde – Why not?

25 – Create my 30 before 30 list – because goals and ambition is important

Hopefully that helps you get to know me better, giving you a better idea about me and some of my interests. Anything you think I have missed and definitely should achieve by 25? What would you put on yours?