Gratitude During Times of Chaos

"You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you've lost."

More than ever we are being encouraged to maintain our physical health through healthy habits and regular hand washing. Keeping our immune system high is of utmost importance. Mental Health Awareness Month is a good time to point out we also need to keep up with our emotional hygiene. Your personal happiness and stress relief isn’t a luxury. New research even shows that mood has an impact on immune function. 

In the beginning it might be hard to consider putting gratitude on the table when your life has been disrupted and the external circumstances are objectively bad. People are actually dying. There is economic uncertainty. There are a lot of things we do to cheer ourselves up that we can’t do right now. Strong relationships are one of the biggest contributing factors to happiness and social distancing has cut us off from our old comforts. These are all valid feelings. 

Chaotic and uncertain times are when we should practice gratitude the most. Creating a mindset of gratitude is one of the best ways to relieve anxiety. 

In some ways it’s easier to identify what we are grateful for because we realize how fragile everything was. As a society we found a collective gratitude for essential workers in healthcare and the food supply chain. Now that I see that health isn’t guaranteed I’m grateful I don’t have the virus. My family is safe. I still have the ability to see my partner. These are all circumstances I took for granted before. 

We can’t control most things in life. Our reaction to these events is one thing we really can control. Gratitude is an action that requires effort. You create emotional strength by actively practicing gratitude when it’s easier to focus on your gripes. Gratitude is also a mindfulness practice. Anxiety is based in fear about the unknown. Gratitude pulls you back into the present by focusing on things you’re thankful for right now. 

No matter what season of life we are in, we are always better off when we focus on gratitude.