Embracing a Gratitude Mindset in Tough Times

Spend time on social media channels in November and you’ll be greeted with a cascade of gratitude-laden posts. It’s become an annual precursor to Thanksgiving to acknowledge the things we are thankful for in a daily post or tweet throughout the month. While you certainly don’t need another to-do item on your list or the pressure of a daily deadline, adopting a mindset of gratitude has a litany of benefits worth tapping into both personally and professionally.

Of course, 2020 has been a rough year, to put it mildly. The idea of finding 30 things you’re feeling grateful for, let alone tapping into the wellspring of thankfulness on a regular basis, may seem a little more daunting than it normally would. While you might have to dig a little deeper and work a little harder to shift your thinking toward thankfulness, you should make the effort to do so. In fact, living your gratitude (which goes beyond just talking about it!) is more valuable and necessary in times of trial!

Be Like a Pilgrim

If your idea of the first Thanksgiving dinner is the sweet picture book image of European settlers and Native Americans settling around a common table to enjoy a robust dinner of the items they harvested, dig a little deeper. The pilgrims we associate with the holiday struggled when they first arrived in North America. Nearly 100 individuals set sail on the Mayflower in 1620. Roughly half of them did not survive their first winter in the colony they settled. That meal was as much a celebration of survival as it was an expression of gratitude for a good harvest.

It would take another 240+ years for Thanksgiving to become an official national holiday. The declaration by Abraham Lincoln (following a campaign by Sarah Hale) made Thanksgiving a US holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War. Originally we observed the day early in November. It moved to the 4th week during the Great Depression. What’s the point of this history lesson? Glad you asked. Gratitude in the midst of strife is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie.

Impact of Gratitude

Let’s cut to the chase: gratitude may not fix all that’s wrong in your world, but it can make it easier for you to manage the stress. Research supports this notion. Gratitude has repeatedly been linked to greater levels of happiness. It’s been found to improve our health, strengthen our relationships, and help us deal with difficult times. Simply put, 2020 is the perfect time to add “Find something to be grateful for today” to your task list.

Write it out

The effort of writing things down can help you focus on the details. Here’s a secret: sometimes gratitude is in those details. It might be easy to overlook the way the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your foot adds a little skip to your step as you’re going about your day. A stressful day debating the merits of homework and chores with your children might obfuscate the memory of the belly laughs you all shared at breakfast over a corny knock-knock joke. Taking time to write things out can help highlight those things. It might also remind you of that one team member who manages to slip a warm cup of your favorite coffee in front of you just at that exact moment you need a break from the deadlines and work-related challenges. Keeping a gratitude journal also creates a touchstone. It becomes a list you can go back and review when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can help ground you when you’re feeling untethered.

It’s Not all Sunshine and Roses

Let’s be clear: possessing a grateful mindset isn’t a denial of challenges and struggle. Just because you choose to focus on the things you’re thankful for doesn’t mean you live in constant bliss. It does mean, however, that the stress, even the fear, won’t rule you. You might feel the weight of a world fighting to survive a pandemic. You may have very real concerns over a whole host of things. Gratitude doesn’t remove that worry, but it will remind you that even in the midst of the storm, there are puddles to joyously jump in and rainbows on the horizon.