Thanksgiving During a Pandemic: We Can Still Be Grateful

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for. As Thanksgiving approaches during this strange and often stressful year, it may be challenging to tap into our gratitude. For many of us, the holidays will look vastly different than they ever have before. Large gatherings and travel will be canceled or postponed. We will forgo in-person visits with family members, especially those who are older or medically fragile. And we may already be mourning the loss of those with whom we will not spend another holiday. But this Thanksgiving, gratitude is more important than ever.

Robert Emmons is one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude. His definition of gratitude consists of two parts: an awareness of goodness in the world, and an acknowledgement that the source of this goodness is outside of ourselves. We experience gratitude when we perceive and appreciate the positive aspects of life. Gratitude does not minimize or ignore the hardships and complications of life; it simply calls us to recognize the goodness that exists.

Research on gratitude has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude experience improvements in their physical, psychological, and social well-being. These benefits include:

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Increased feelings of joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Being more helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • Decreased depression
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated
  • Reduced stress

Here are a few ways that you can practice gratitude this holiday season:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Take a moment each day to jot down a few things you are thankful for.
  • Share your gratitude. Reach out to friends, family, or others to express your gratitude. Write a letter, make a call, or send a text to let them know you’re thankful for them.
  • Reframe the negative. Find the good in some of life’s less exciting moments by changing your perspective. An example of this is trading “I have to” with “I get to”.
  • Cultivate generosity. This could mean donating time, money, or other resources. It could also include being generous with your kindness and compassion.

Gratitude builds resilience. Practicing gratitude trains our brains to see the good and nurtures our ability to adapt and cope with stress. Resilience also means reaching out when you need help. Chicago Behavioral Hospital offers help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our clinical programs provide treatment for depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental health conditions. Call us at 844-756-8600.