Today the sun came out, and boy, did I need that. Quarantine is hard; it’s even harder with no sun and weather that traps you inside the house with two barking dogs, three kids who need to distance-learn and your husband.
I’ve found myself losing more energy, wanting to sleep more and just feeling blah. Basically, I realized, I was feeling depressed.
When I was in college, I went through a big depression. I felt really low and didn’t know how to get out of it. I played briefly with the idea of going to a therapist, but I didn’t know how to even begin. I was desperate for change but didn’t know what to do. I decided to start a “Happy Journal.”
My thought process was this: If I could focus on the good around me, maybe I could quiet the voices in my head that seemed to only want to see the bad. I would write three good things that had happened to me every day. Gradually, I got to five good things and could even write things that I liked about myself or when I was proud of myself. That journal saved me.
As I was thinking about what to write about, I stumbled on mindful.org. This site is a wealth of information for people looking on how to be — you guessed it — more mindful. One practice it focuses on is gratitude.
It turns out my Happy Journal was the first step to focusing on gratitude. Right now I think we could all use a little boost of gratitude. Why? According to an article on Mindful on what practicing gratitude can do for you, it boosts mental health, helps you accept change, and can help you relieve stress. Does that sound good to anyone else?
So how do you practice gratitude? Here is an easy, 10-step start to practicing gratitude, according to mindful.org.
1. Keep a “Gratitude Journal.” Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it’s helpful to remember the hard times you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Meditate on your relationships with parents, friends, siblings, work associates, children, and partners using these three questions: “What have I received from __?” “What have I given to __?” and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
4. Share Your Gratitude With Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses — the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear — we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it someplace where you will be reminded of it every day.
8. Watch Your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should focus not on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
9. Go Through the Motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying “Thank you,” and writing letters of gratitude. By going through grateful motions, you’ll trigger the emotion of gratitude more often.
10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must look creatively for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful. Please share the creative ways you’ve found to help you practice gratitude.”
So, here is my vow: “I, Kristin Maher, and my family are going to practice daily gratitude.” We have created a family gratitude journal. Every night at dinner, we are going to write or draw something we are grateful for. The kids can choose to do their own entry or we can write it down for them. I am also going to post one picture a day on Instagram of something or someone I am grateful for.
I know from my own experience that little steps can make a big difference. I hope you join me in taking this little step.