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Practicing Gratitude During Challenging Times

It’s an understatement to say 2020 has been a troubling time. The pandemic caused the heartbreaking loss of loved ones, as well as financial instability, increased mental health issues, and political turmoil. We cannot be ignorant to the reality of these losses and challenges. However, dwelling over the hardships can lead to the developmental of a hopeless, pessimistic mindset. A healthy balance lies between acknowledging the struggles and taking the time you need to heal, while also acting with resilience to keep moving forward.

Gratitude is a practice of mindfulness that helps us consider what is going right, even amidst the chaos. By focusing on the most meaningful parts of your life, and the value they bring, you can bring yourself peace of mind. The practice of gratitude can improve your quality of life by not only promoting a mindful lifestyle, but also through mental and physical benefits to your well-being. As the holiday season approaches, it is a special time to be with our loved ones. Although things may feel like they’re falling apart, adding gratitude practices to your day may help make the end of this year a bit more meaningful.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Journaling in general is a great practice in self-reflection and development. A gratitude journal in specific can help refocus your energy to a positive headspace before starting or ending the day. It is as simple as writing down three things (or more) that you are grateful for each day. Some examples include gratefulness for meals you ate, for spending time with family and friends, or for having a safe place to live. While you can very easily go through this list in your head, writing things down helps you visualize your thoughts and can provide a point of reference to revisit later.

Show Appreciation for Others 

Telling someone you’re grateful for them not only makes their day but can strengthen your relationship. Showing appreciation for the important people in your life, even if it’s for the little things, can go a long way. Since we find ourselves in a socially distant, virtual world, you may not be able to do this in person. But don’t let that stop you! A video chat, phone call, text message, or email can easily do the job. Mailing a cute holiday greeting card is also a fun way to tell someone you’re grateful for having them in your life.


The combined stressors of the pandemic, end of the semester, and socially distant holiday celebrations can be very overwhelming. Taking a break to refocus your mind can make a big difference. Gratitude meditation provides the perfect outlet for reflection and peace during stressful times. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breathes while you reflect on the things you appreciate the most. This is a great opportunity to get a break from the overwhelming influence of technology and social media as well. Even considering the small things that make you happy throughout your day can make the biggest differences. For example, being grateful for a FaceTime call with your friend, or for trying a new drink at Starbucks can really get your mind into a more positive space. The purpose of the mediation, and gratitude in general, is not to invalidate your difficult experiences, but create a positive, safe headspace for growth and reflection.

Iqra is a sophomore majoring in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching her favorite shows on Netflix, and trying new coffee shops. Iqra also loves getting involved in creative projects!
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