In Challenging Times, Try a Dose of Gratitude

A helping hand. An illness cured. A sunny day. A rainy day! We experience gratitude for many reasons, big and small. And when we do, says Glenn Fox, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, we are immersed in a uniquely human sensation. “Gratitude is such a key function of our social lives and our evolution as a species,” says Fox. “People who did not develop gratitude or grateful relationships with others, it’s very unlikely they would have survived in a social context.”

This month, of course, we observe Thanksgiving. And although the coronavirus continues to rage and our current “social context” is restricted, people are still finding reasons to be grateful. We should all follow their lead – science has shown that people who think about and express gratitude can lower their stress and their blood pressure, sleep better, feel less depressed, and enjoy more satisfying interpersonal relationships.

It’s easy to incorporate gratitude into your life. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, expressing gratitude even once a week can boost our state of mind. A recent story on National Public Radio noted, “In one study Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that counting blessings once a week boosted happiness.”

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to express your gratitude. On any day of the year, thinking about things you’re grateful for can help your state of mind. When you’re thanking someone in person, take an extra moment to say something beyond a quick “Thanks.” Write a note or send an email to express thanks. Some people keep gratitude journals, and some people who meditate focus on gratitude during their practice.

Admittedly, practicing gratitude during such challenging times can be … challenging. And if you’re suffering from depression, you may find it very difficult to summon feelings of gratitude. Two researchers from Indiana University studied this issue when researching the effects of keeping a gratitude list or journal. “Gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns,” they wrote in Greater Good magazine. “In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief.”

What are you grateful for today?

We at LifeCare Advocates are grateful for the love and support of our families and friends, and for the rewarding work we do with our colleagues and clients. Thank you!