Practicing Gratitude in Trying Times

There has been a lot of new information out there lately about how practicing gratitude can do a lot to relieve anxiety. If you haven’t spent a lot of time intentionally practicing gratitude, the process of it all may seem a bit foreign and strange. You might find yourself grateful for a lot of things, but how does that translate to combatting worry and fear?

Practicing gratitude has a lot of amazing mental, emotional, physical and social benefits. It takes the focus off of you and puts it on more positive, life-giving things. If you’ve never considered practicing gratefulness on a regular basis, consider the list below and see if you can work any of these practices into your daily life.

1. Keep a gratitude jar

You can choose the frequency—although daily will be most beneficial—of how often you do this, but try writing down something you’re thankful for every evening at dinnertime. Try to make it a habit, and put each slip of paper in a jar where you can see it. While you could check your gratitude jar once a month, it’s the most fun to wait until an entire year has gone by. Pick one special day where you go through all the slips of paper in your gratitude jar, and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been blessed with.

2. Focus on the positive

When we fail or endure a negative situation, it can do incredible things to our mindset to practice gratitude and think about what positive things we can take away from whatever has happened. Perhaps one of the most important lessons we can learn from failure is that, at the very least, it can inform our decisions about the future. We can course correct and try something completely different the next time we come across a similar situation.

The next time you have to endure something that’s anxiety-inducing, try to focus on two positive things you can focus on or take away from that situation.

3. Try to avoid verbally complaining

While we don’t want to hide our vulnerabilities from those we love, it’s important that we try to practice minimizing complaining. Venting focuses on your emotions about a particular topic, but complaining tends to be more passive and ends up blaming all the other people involved. The next time you feel tempted to complain, try to say something you appreciate about whatever situation is on your mind. Diminishing the amount you criticize others or situations will not only affect you, but it will affect the other people around you and create a positive atmosphere for everyone.

4. Keep a gratitude journal

Every night or every morning, try to write down a few things that you’re thankful for. Of course, you might be thankful for your family every day, but that can get a bit stale after a while. Try to be specific and write down particular things that you’re grateful for. For instance, “I’m thankful for the smell of the autumn air while I walked to class today,” or “I really appreciated that my roommate offered to cook dinner for me since I’m so overwhelmed with studying for this test.” Keep it fresh by trying to make a game out of noticing new things every day.

5. Write a gratitude letter

We all have impactful people in our lives, and there’s something especially life-giving about writing a letter to someone you’re thankful for and telling them why you’re thankful for them. Perhaps there was a certain circumstance that really impacted you or an interaction that you found exceptional. Not only will writing that letter affect you, but it will also bring a lot of joy and life to the reader.

6. Thank people who never get thanked

Is there a janitor you see cleaning the school halls on a regular basis? Has someone thanked your literature professor lately? Try to open your eyes and see the people who are working really hard around you and give them an extra thank you. Maybe your R.A. could benefit from some authentic gratitude, or maybe your roommate who’s been working extra hard to take out the trash on a regular basis would appreciate a genuine thanks. Gratitude takes your focus off yourself and helps you look outward and love others better.