August 10, 2020
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: there is still much uncertainty ahead. All of this not knowing can lead to stress and anxiety. You may not be aware that you are holding stress in your body—it may show up as trouble sleeping, feeling a bit on edge, or flying off the handle unexpectedly.
Whenever I start to feel gripped by anxiety, I remind myself to pause, look around, and take stock of what really matters. In other words, I practice gratitude.
Gratitude Increases Health and Wellness
Gratitude is a powerful tool for shifting your focus from what you lack, or desire to be different, to noticing the goodness that is already present. This can help change your outlook from negative to positive. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can increase health and wellness, enhance sleep, and improve self-esteem. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it becomes; you begin to observe the world in a better light by actually changing your brain’s neuropathways. Practicing gratitude also helps create a deeper connection to yourself, to others, and to something larger than yourself.
A great way to practice gratitude is the G.L.A.D. technique, which was developed by Donald Altman. I’ve been teaching this technique to my patients in hospice care, and in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction groups that I lead. The G.L.A.D. technique helps you focus on what’s good in your life instead of what you wish were different, and is designed to help you find more joy, purpose and balance in your day.
How to Practice the G.L.A.D. Technique
Write down one thing that you are grateful for today. It can be as simple as appreciation for the pillow you laid your head on when you slept, or the drinking water coming out of your kitchen faucet. It can also be gratitude for a person, an experience, or a job. For example: Today I am grateful for the sunrise I was able to see from my porch rocking chair.
Write down one new thing that you learned today. It can be something you discovered about yourself or were taught by others, a fact you never knew, or a lesson you learned from experience. Each day is full of possibility. For instance: I learned that after a long day’s work, taking a hot bath before bed helps me sleep better.
Write down one small accomplishment you achieved today. We often believe that an accomplishment has to be grand, but it can be an ordinary act of self-care or kindness toward someone else. Some examples: Not skipping meals, taking medications correctly, getting enough sleep, or paying bills on time.
Write down one delight that touched you deeply today. Consider anything that gave you joy or made you smile. Perhaps you noticed beautiful flowers, laughed with friends, connected with a stranger, or ate a delicious piece of chocolate. An example: I was surprised and delighted by the chocolate ice cream cone my coworker bought for me today on our lunch break.
Tracking Your Progress
You can practice the G.L.A.D. technique in a private journal, or share it with family or friends to do together. Try following it daily for a week, and notice how your state of gratitude starts to remain with you throughout the day. It’s even more effective if you date each entree in your journal, then look back on how much goodness in your life may have gone unnoticed.
We may not be able to control everything in our lives, but we can choose to see the good that is all around us.
LG Health is offering a virtual, 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course on Tuesdays from 6:30–8:30 pm, beginning October 6. Click here for information.