Reflecting on a Challenging Year and Moving Forward With Gratitude

This has been a year like no other. We have now entered what is called the “reconstruction Phase” of a crisis. We are at the point where we are seeing light at the end of the “pandemic tunnel”, we are putting back the pieces of our lives, and we are seeing the beginnings of a return to normalcy. This stage may last a long time, however, as we adjust, process what we’ve been through, and understand the losses we have endured. It’s also a time to reflect on all we have overcome and to marvel at how resilient we are.  Think of all the roles you have had to play as a parent or caregiver, think of all the ways you have had to support your children and other loved ones through this difficult time. Think of all the ways your children may have surprised you in how resilient they are. 

These were challenging times, but are there things you are grateful for? Many of us came to appreciate what was most important to us when we had to let go of the hustle and bustle of the life we knew. In the stillness, many of us grew closer to our children and loved ones. We got to know them better and formed tighter bonds. Many of us got to know ourselves better and to realize what is really important to us in life. We learned about relationships in our lives and whatever that meant for us, we grew from it. We learned new skills at work or at home that we will carry with us and use going forward. Looking at the positives we’ve gained through this experience will help us to move forward, and when we can find ways to be grateful it’s good for both our mental and physical health.

Here are the many ways practicing gratitude can help us:

It makes us healthier: Research shows that people who seek to be grateful for what they have have lower stress, lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, and they enjoy more sound sleep according to happiness researcher Kristen Layhous, PhD. 

It makes us happier: Finding and focusing on the positives in our lives helps us to wire our brains toward happiness. It increases positive emotions and makes experiences more enjoyable. 

It helps us to make more positive, healthful choices: When we are more appreciative of our lives, we are more inclined to take better care of ourselves. For example, research shows that appreciative people tend to exercise more.

It improves our relationships: Positivity and gratitude spreads outward. Others are positively influenced by those who have an appreciative attitude. When we are grateful for those in our lives- our partners, children, loved ones and friends, and we express this to them, it helps to strengthen our relationships. When we feel appreciated by those we love, we are more likely to do and say the things that make relationships last and grow. 

It isn’t easy, especially during difficult times to find the things that can make us grateful. Try keeping a simple gratitude journal- you can help your children to keep one as well. Everyday, try to write down something you are grateful for. It could be a gesture from a friend or a kind word, beautiful weather, or a hug from your child. Begin recording each day the little things that uplift you and before you know it, you will find many things in your life for which to give thanks.