Historically, as the calendar year comes to an end, I take time to reflect on the past year. I ask myself: What did I learn? How did I grow? What ways did I struggle? I create a mental Top Ten list of my favorite memories I long to hold forever.
I pause to honor the difficult memories, too, and consider what’s left to heal. Then, I take those reflections and allow them to help me consider goals for the new year.
As 2020 neared its end, I found myself avoiding that tradition. This past year felt like too much to process properly. I felt stuck. Then, as the great prophet Oprah Winfrey says, I had…
This tradition involves practicing GRATITUDE!!!
Yes. It’s true. My gratitude practice struggled in 2020.
This year brought heavy grief on a global, national, state, local, and personal level. There was no manual on how to be a mom, partner, friend, daughter, sister, teacher (not self-inflicted), or therapist during a pandemic.
Gratitude is high on my personal values list and typically feels second nature to practice. However, sometimes the things that once felt easy can feel almost impossible in times of crisis.
As the dumpster fire of 2020 continued to spread, this value was challenged for me. I could always force myself to find something to be grateful for, but the key word here is FORCE. What once felt familiar, was now a struggle. I wasn’t feeling grateful for this pandemic year. So how can I practice it, if I don’t feel it?
As I processed these thoughts with my best friend, he said, “Thankfulness is a feeling, gratitude is an action.” This brought my second ah-ha moment. My ACTIONS of gratitude were lacking because I didn’t always FEEL it. With this revelation, I researched ways to jump start my gratitude actions in 2021:
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
—Henri Frederic Amiel
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Consider the small things; they add up.
- Complete a random act of kindness.
- Take 2 min to think about someone who inspires you.
- Say it out loud: Tell someone you love something you are grateful for. Tell them you love them while you’re at it too.
- Write a thank you note to someone.
- Volunteer your time for a cause you are passionate about.
- Create a gratitude jar. Write the items you’re thankful for and place them in a jar, read as needed.
- Create a piece of art to represent something you are thankful for.
- Build routine: pick one consistent time of the day to practice.
If you have also struggled to feel thankful this year in the midst of grief and loss, consider trying one of these action steps to increase your gratefulness. What other ways do you practice gratitude?
Blog written by Sentier therapist, Alyssa Haggerty