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.