5 Ways to Find Gratitude in Tough Times

December 11, 2020

A global pandemic. Civil unrest. Widespread job losses. An election season. If this year feels like a roller coaster you’re ready to get off, you’re not alone. And with the holiday season right around the corner, you might find yourself thinking that the only thing you’re grateful for is that 2020 is almost over. 

When you take time for gratitude, you can improve your physical and mental well-being, enhance your empathy and a host of other scientifically proven benefits. But how do you find things to be thankful for in a year like 2020? Here are 5 ideas, along with tech tools to help with each one.  

  1. Write it down. 
    It’s sometimes easier to express our feelings of gratitude when we write them down. You might try writing about three things you’re grateful for right now, or taking up a more regular journaling habit at the end of each day or week. Gratefulness.org offers a free online gratitude journal, or write your thoughts on the go with a mobile app like Grateful (iOS) or Delight (Android).
  1. Start a challenge.
    Inject an element of friendly competition into your gratitude game by turning it into a fun challenge. You might challenge yourself to take a picture of one thing that makes you grateful every day for a month, or you could grab a friend and challenge each other to gratitude scavenger hunts. Share photos of all your adventures through an app like FamilyAlbum (iOS), which allows you to share photos privately with family and friends. 
  2. Be specific.   
    Being specific about your gratitude, especially when it’s a person you’re grateful for, heightens the experience for both people. Identify a specific person in your life whom you’re thankful for and tell them exactly why. You can do this over the phone, in a letter or send a video card with online video maker Animoto.

  3. Practice mindfulness.
    Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve attention and improve interpersonal relationships, all of which make it much easier to be thankful. Total beginner when it comes to mindfulness? Start small with these family mindfulness exercises from Parents magazine, which includes a recommendation for the free Stop, Breathe & Think Kids app (iOS).

  4. Pay it forward.
    Helping those in need is a powerful way to evoke feelings of gratitude inside yourself. And what’s great is that even during a pandemic there are still opportunities to help others. Check out this list of places to find volunteer opportunities online from DoSomething.org, which includes Catchafire, a free search tool exclusively for online volunteer projects. 

No doubt about it: it’s been a long, uncertain journey getting through 2020. But with the tips and tools above, you’ll have a much easier time spotting the silver lining behind the rain clouds.