Keeping One's Spirits Up
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some down moments during this time, even using all the stress management techniques I know and have shared. Fortunately, I have practices that ground me and give me perspective. But there are times (usually when catching up on the news) that I get low. There are only so many walks you can take, videos you can watch, yoga you can do, mind-altering substances you can ingest (including chocolate), Zoom or phone chats you can have before you’re left with yourself. Again.
Everyone seems to be putting out ideas for how to cope; there’s no end of advice, and this is one more offering. Evidence-based research shows that writing down three good things that happened during a day (and the reasons for them) produces as much relief as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression. Current research indicates that feeling gratitude has positive mental and physical effects: reduction in anxiety, depression and stress, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, less pain, better sleep. It also boosts the pro-social behaviors of generosity, kindness and helpfulness. Gratitude activates the medial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with socializing, pleasure, empathy, and feelings of relief. It’s free, readily available, and leaves no hangover!
A gratitude journal is one way you can capture your list. I’ve kept many of them over the years and it’s time to bring it out again. I typically write mine right before bed. You can repeat items day after day if you need to. I usually write 3-5 things, but you can record as many as you want. During one particularly difficult year, I challenged myself to write ten each day. Nothing is too small, or too large for comment. The fact the sun rose again works.
Two things happen if you make this a habit: you look for what’s good during the day so you have something to write, and you relive the memory of the positive events as you write them down.
Do you have experience with gratitude journals or some other practice that puts you in a positive frame of mind? Please comment in the box below.
Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and the nudge to look outside for signs of spring.