When times are tough, gratitude is often in short supply.
But this is when gratitude is most important. How we approach each day matters and it can give us the strength we need to keep going. Especially now, we need to stay grateful in tough times.
The COVID-19 pandemic put an unprecedented strain on mental health around the globe. Now more than ever, gratitude, kindness, and empathy can go a long way toward improving our lives and the lives of others.
Health benefits of a grateful mindset during a difficult period
Feeling grateful goes far beyond simply “being in a good mood.” Taking active measures to be happier and more thankful can positively impact just about every aspect of our lives–from mental, physical, and emotional health, to productivity and career goals, to finances and relationships.
Here are a few of the benefits people often experience when they turn gratefulness into a consistent habit:
Improved mental health: A sense of gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety, which in turn results in better sleep.
Improved physical health: With restful sleep comes a healthier heart and more energy to accomplish your goals. You’re also less likely to get sick.
Increased productivity: As your mental and physical health improve, you’ll discover more stamina and motivation that comes with your natural energy boost. Your to-do list won’t know what hit it!
Career success: The pattern of benefits continues to compound on itself. You’re healthier, more productive, and less likely to take sick days. Expressing gratitude helps you network, be a more effective manager, improve your decision-making skills, and make your work environment a happier place.
Improved financial stability: As your career advances or even changes direction based on your new priorities, your savings tend to increase. A lot of people shop when they’re feeling depressed because the material things bring short-term excitement and a self-esteem boost. In practicing gratitude, materialistic possessions become less important, and you’ll have better luck developing a wealth mindset.
Deeper, more meaningful relationships: Gratitude often reflects outwardly as kindness and compassion for others, which means you’re more likely to form more empathetic connections. This helps you strengthen your existing relationships and forge new ones, connecting you on a much deeper level.
5 simple steps to stay grateful in tough times
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when life seems more difficult than usual. Don’t give in to those temptations.
Instead, try these tips to form good habits that will help you maintain a grateful, positive attitude:
1. Write down what you’re thankful for
This can be in a formal gratitude journal or just on a regular piece of paper. Take a few minutes each day to record three things in your life for which you are grateful.
The physical activity of writing forms a deeper pathway in our brains than mental reflection or typing, which is why studies comparing pen-and-paper notes to digital notes almost always favor the handwritten option.
Writing by hand helps us retain information because it requires more thought. When you type, you’re performing the same repetitive action of pressing a button for each letter. But when you write, your brain has to think about the shape of every letter and control the hand muscles to form it, which makes the process more complex and requires more brainpower.
By recording your gratitude on paper, you’re helping the message sink in.
2. Vocalize your gratitude in a conversation
You know how you feel better when you’re able to open up and “get something off your chest”?
The same goes for gratitude. While that original example usually pertains to negativity you’ve been bottling up inside, you’ll find that expressing gratitude out loud can have the same effect.
It’s good to be silently thankful. But it feels really good to let it out and openly share with others. Make a point to talk about gratitude when you’re having conversations with friends, family, and colleagues.
3. Tell someone how much you appreciate them
It’s one thing to talk about the things you’re grateful for. But it’s even more meaningful to directly tell someone how important they are to you.
A little recognition can go a long way in both your personal and professional life. Lack of engagement in the workplace frequently results in actively disengaged employees. One study found that 69% of employees said they would work harder if they were better appreciated.
Taking a moment to clearly express your gratitude for someone–whether it’s a friend, family member, colleague, mentor, or even just a casual acquaintance who did something that made you feel good–will brighten their day as well as yours.
Doing this regularly is going to strengthen your relationships on a much deeper level and help you maintain a likable personality.
4. Reflect on the highlights of your day before bed
Even if you had the worst day of your life, finding and focusing on the silver lining can help you stay positive and have a restful sleep.
Mentally list out what you’re grateful for and what went right today. Instead of focusing on the fight you had with your friend and every little mistake you made at work, take a breath, close your eyes, and catalog the good parts of your day.
Your health. Your pets. Your family, job, accomplishments, financial stability, food security, home, book club, neighborhood community… whatever holds meaning in your life. Focusing on these meaningful parts of your life can help you stay grateful in tough times.
Be sure to let these be your last thoughts as you drift off to sleep.
5. Pay it forward
Small acts of kindness can be contagious. Pausing for a moment to help someone, even a complete stranger, might make their whole day better. It could even inspire them to pay the kindness forward to the next person, who does the same, and so on.
Be on the lookout for opportunities. Pay for someone’s coffee on the way to work. Offer a ride to a coworker who was planning to walk home. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture–it could be something as small and simple as complimenting a stranger.
Being grateful will change your perspective on life
Much of our lives are outside of our control. We can’t turn red lights green or make the line move faster while we wait for our coffee in the morning. We can’t magically make our keys appear when we lose them or single-handedly stop a pandemic.
But we can stay grateful during tough times by adopting a positive mindset and making a conscious effort to notice the good things. And when we do more than passively observe, we are more likely to spread that kindness to other people and create a domino effect.
We can’t change the whole world, but we can make it a little better one person at a time–starting with ourselves.
Speaking of making life better, we’re always looking for positive, grateful people to join our team. See what we’re all about.