Practicing Gratitude During COVID-19

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

I’ll be honest, this “social distancing, shelter at home” era hasn’t been getting any easier for me. In a world that has been turned upside down almost overnight, I find myself fluctuating between fear, compliance, and sometimes frustration. I imagine many feel this way, but we soldier on and remain committed to trusting the process. I find myself more on edge, more impatient with people whose opinions differ from mine, and then I find myself completely heartbroken when I hear a story of a person who cannot connect with their family in their last moments. I’m all over the place.

The important thing to realize is we will all experience a range of emotions during this time, sometimes from one minute to the next. I’m so focused on my own struggle and managing my own conflicts that it’s hard to imagine taking on the care of others and their needs. Does this make me a bad person? No. It makes me human.    

Shifting my perspective has required more discipline and focus than I have had to summon in a long time. Have you found this to be true? I’ve dug deep into mindfulness, meditation, routine, prayer, and journaling, but nothing compares to the practice of gratitude. If you’re struggling like I am right now, or maybe just looking for more ways to practice self-care, I would highly recommend this simple act to bring your perspective back to a place of peace. Oprah Winfrey got me started on this practice so many years ago, and it has changed my life. Here are but a few of my suggestions on this subject, and I hope they can be of use to others at this time:

    1. Time. Like any self-care practice, set aside some time to quietly reflect. We live in a very fast world, changes are happening every moment. Gratitude can serve to effectively slow your world down. Whether you devote that time to your morning ritual, or your evening shut down, time is intentional and precious.
    2. Thought. Give careful thought to the many blessings you have, and resist the comparison trap.  Living in a consumer culture, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have rather on what we already have. Make this the next step in your reflection time, and if you are so inclined, write it down. Taking the time to write down your gratitude list is powerful. The key here is to look deeply into the actual blessings you have right here, right now. 
    3. Don’t force it. You shouldn’t have to dig too deep to find your well of gratitude. The important thing is to acknowledge and make space for your thoughts and emotions. You don’t have to rush right into enlightenment, it takes some time. Unconditional self-acceptance is more important than ever. Go at your own pace.
    4. Keep it simple. No need to make it too complicated, it might be just taking note of some of the more pleasant things that might have crossed your mind during the day. Your list might look different every day, and it should look different every day. Perhaps it’s the fact that you experienced some sunshine today. Or the fact that you have a favorite warm blanket you’re wrapped up in tonight. It might be that you’re grateful for the love of your family, even if you have to use some wonky video chat to stay in touch these days! 

Gratitude is about taking the time to be gentle and compassionate to yourself. This is so important during this stressful time. Allowing yourself to feel all of your feelings is the greatest gift you can offer yourself right now. And when it comes down to it, you deserve as much gratitude for yourself as you give everything else in your life.

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.