Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude During Stressful Times

Gratitude can help improve both your physical and mental health.

April 21, 2020 — 5 p.m. EST

After staying home 24/7 for the last month, I’ve learned a few things: 1. Cooking three meals a day gets old fast. 2. If I don’t move at least a little throughout the day, my mental health feels much worse. And finally, 3. I’m willing to try just about anything to help me cope with excess stress and insomnia. Last week, when feeling particularly overwhelmed, my therapist recommended (through video call) that I set a timer each day to incorporate easy ways to practice gratitude into my daily routine. 

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Gratitude has always pushed me forward through hard times, and being able to tap into it at a moment’s notice always helps calm me down. Gratitude certainly won’t fix the problems this country faces or help make sad news go away, but practicing it can be a useful tool to deal with stress and uncertainty. To get started, simply ask yourself, what are three things I’m thankful for right now? A little goes a long way. Here are a few ideas to help get you started. 

Set a Timer to Pause from Your Day & Reflect

This one is of course borrowed by my therapist. Whenever I put any kind of task on my calendar, I like to make sure that I make it feel natural, and not like something painstaking I need to cross off of my list. I made it a point to associate gratefulness with lunch time; hear me out. When I start to feel myself get hungry and am about to head to the kitchen, I pause, close my eyes, and think of three things I’m grateful for right now. It can be as simple as the sun being out, or a nod to a productive morning, but pausing to reflect always helps calm me down.

Set up a Gratitude Call

You know how some people replay the peak and the pit of their day over the dinner table? This is kind of like that but with gratitude. If you live with a partner or roommates, suggest everyone shares what they’re grateful for at the end of the day. If you live alone, set up a 5 minute phone date each night with someone you can share with. It’ll be inspiring to hear what other people are grateful for and nice to share your own thoughts as well. 

Participate In Something 

If you live in a big city, you’ve probably heard claps and pot clanks around 7 p.m. each night. The eruption of cheer is a nod to frontline workers as a way to say thank you. Tonight, grab your pots and pans and join in on the fun. Or, start it in your neighborhood if it’s lacking. It’s a way to give thanks to frontline workers and also feel part of something inspiring. 

Be Thankful for Movement

Gratitude is an easy way to improve your physical health. If you find yourself stressed out throughout most of your day, focusing on one thing at a time — exercise — can help you totally zone out. Repeat this mantra: I’m thankful for being able to move; I’m thankful for what my body can do. Try out these free indoor workouts to get started.

 If You’re Looking to Give Back, Incorporate Gratitude

One of the easiest ways to feel better is to help others. If you’re still receiving a paycheck and would like to help others, pay it forward by donating to people whose lives have been directly impacted by COVID-19. Of course, this is a difficult time, so if you’re unable to donate, no problem. You can also help health companies like Sharecare identify public need (mental health care, etc.) by taking this survey.  When you’re donating or volunteering, make sure to reflect on your gratitude for being able to help someone else during this time. 

I recently found and donated to Frederick Joseph’s GoFundMe that aims to directly put money into people’s pockets who need it to make rent, everyday groceries, etc. People in need can tweet him directly and he deposits a few hundred dollars into their accounts, no questions asked. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here.


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