Practicing Gratitude for Wellbeing

By: Lindsay Holbrook, Librarian, Jeffery Manor Branch-Chicago Public Library

This past year has been one of the most challenging in recent memory. It has been fraught with danger, stress, and anxiety. With many suffering the loss of a loved one it has also been a time of personal financial crisis and extreme social isolation. While this may dull our outlook on the world, we should still consider something in the midst of it all. Why not be grateful?

Having gratitude during the COVID-19 pandemic is probably the farthest thing from anyone's mind right now. It could be challenging to think of anything that you could appreciate, but there are always reasons to be grateful.

Being open to the idea of being grateful understandably takes effort. In all its greatness, gratitude can sound very positive and, perhaps, overly optimistic in the face of adversity on a global scale, but it has many benefits. It has been shown to improve self-esteem, physical health, and even promote happiness and a greater sense of wellbeing.

Practicing gratitude does not need to be a complicated process and can be different for everyone. Recently, I facilitated a learning circle entitled "Practicing Gratitude Teach-Out" created by the University of Michigan. This enriching learning experience provided many useful tools and resources that can significantly benefit anyone seeking to integrate gratitude into their lives. A few of the methods introduced included: keeping a gratitude journal, writing letters of gratitude, and meditation.

Image of a pink journal that reads "Today I Am Gateful"

Keeping a gratitude journal

You can begin keeping a gratitude journal by writing down five things that make you feel grateful. It doesn't have to be especially important. The purpose is to reflect on the positive emotions that you felt in the moment. There aren't any rules for keeping a gratitude journal, but recording your experiences can occasionally be beneficial.

Writing letters of gratitude

Writing letters helps to remind us of the kindness we have experienced from others in our lives and gives us an outlet for expressing our appreciation. Even if the letter never gets delivered, the activity itself is rewarding.

Black silhouette of someone standing on top of a mountain with their arms extended

Meditation

We are always mindful of the positive things that happen daily in our lives. Meditation can help focus our minds on the positive emotions of gratitude and help us cope with negative experiences. By finding a quiet place to relax for ten minutes, you can increase your mental and physical awareness and reflect on your reasons to feel grateful.

One of the most important lessons I feel I've learned is that gratitude is a choice. It's about seeing the good in the world intentionally. That is not to say that we completely ignore anything terrible, but instead, we purposefully acknowledge and embrace positivity.

Being grateful allows us to consider the more favorable aspects of life, encourage happiness, and take on a more positive outlook, reminding us to appreciate the more essential things in life. As we continue to endure the crisis that has plagued us, we also should remember that there are things that are worth appreciating.