Here at the end of 2020, the effort to cultivate gratitude in ourselves feels more difficult than ever. At the same time, gratitude is exactly the gift we need.
The year has been full to the brim with negativity in most parts of the world: the COVID-19 virus, as well as the many deaths and other health effects it has caused; and the economic recession resulting from the disease control measures. Far from being equally bad for everyone, it turns out that the effects of COVID-19 are even worse for those who are marginalized.
No less an authority than Harvard Medical School published an article in November, 2020.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
In their summary of some of the gratitude research, some effects of the specific use of gratitude in studies included increased optimism, increased exercise, fewer visits to physicians, improved relationships, and motivation for employees who are thanked for their work.
The saying, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough,” has been attributed to Aesop. You could always have more, and you could also have less.
First notice, and then be thankful for everything that makes you smile, whether it’s past, present, or future; whether it’s something that has a physical component or is an idea or emotion.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.William Arthur Ward
Two Tips for Gratitude:
- .Say “Thank you”
Think about someone in your life who has helped you or done a favour for you. You could tell them directly – in person if they’re in your household bubble, or using phone or online videochat. Be specific about what you appreciated and how it helped you or gave you joy.
You could also write your “Thank you” and send it or read it to the person. Occasionally, you could even write a “thank you” to yourself.
This expression of gratitude is a great way to nurture your relationships, a double gift with benefits for both the giver and receiver.
Set yourself a goal of thanking someone every week. If it’s not possible to thank them directly, thank them in your thoughts.
2. Keep a Gratitude List
Make a time every day or every week to write down your thoughts about the gifts you received that day or week. Be specific about what was good and how you felt in this experience.
It helps to make a special time to do this. It could be each morning before you start your day or each Friday as you review the past week and plan for the week ahead.
For those who like to keep a journal, this can be a specific gratitude journal or be added to your journaling routine.
It also helps to make a specific number of good things to notice such as 3 or 5. Encourage yourself to stretch by making a rule not to allow yourself to repeat the same item more than, say, once a month.
My Gratitude List for 2020
Thank you to all the people who chose me to provide their mediation services this year. It was not “business as usual” and yet we managed to make it work.
Thank you to every person who chose to join my mediation and other courses, all online and live-streamed for the first time.
Thank you to the many people who helped me to sort out the details to pivot to an online business format, so that I can safely continue to help people prevent, manage and resolve conflict.
I am especially grateful to all the people who are providing health care and keeping us safe, including epidemiologists, nurses, cleaners, and the people responsible for vaccines. Another big “thank you” goes to those who help to provide essential services like groceries and medication. I am grateful to the people who found creative ways to lift our spirits and help others in stressful, scary circumstances.
I am grateful for the privilege of having the good health and the space to walk outside; to fill my lungs with the clean, cold wind; to feel the graceful flakes of snow on my face; and as the days get longer, sometimes to feel the warmth of the sun.
Now that I’ve got started, I see that my Gratitude List could go on much longer.
Give the gift of expressing your gratitude this year. What are your good things of 2020?
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