Easing anxiety with a gratitude journal

COVID-19 Wellness

It can be difficult to stay positive during uncertain times such as these. Our routines have been disrupted with schools, restaurants and local businesses closing every day in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.

Although our grandparents may have faced world wars and the Great Depression, this is the first time most of us have faced such a threat. On top of that it is an “invisible threat.”

In the past days, how often have you asked yourself,  “ How much should I worry?”

During uncertain times, anxiety and fear work their way into our everyday life. We don’t know what to expect. The famous psychologist Albert Ellis tells us not to “awfulize or catastrophize.” Instead of always thinking the worst, focus on those things that you enjoy and have control over, no matter how small or trivial they may seem. I know that it is not as easy as it sounds.

As we live thru these uncertain times, there are still simple everyday things in our lives that we can be thankful for.

As a neurologist, I have had many patients suffering from debilitating conditions, such as a stroke. They are unable to partake in some of the very things they loved the most.

Their loss of independence is often accompanied with a sense of despair and even depression. It is at those times that I encourage patients to consider the things in their life they are thankful for and to try and focus on the concept of gratitude. Like a stroke, many things are out of our control.

Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful,” and is marked by a readiness to show appreciation for those things for which we are thankful. People who are thankful and grateful tend to be more optimistic. You may find it difficult to be optimistic right at this moment, but it can go a long way in helping you feel better.

So how can you nurture a sense of gratitude at a difficult time like this? 

Start a gratitude journal

Starting a gratitude journal is easy and should serve as a daily reminder of all the positive things in your life.

Each morning, write down three things you are grateful for. Many mornings it may be the same three: your spouse, your family and your friends.  

At the end of each day repeat the same exercise and look for specific things that happened during the day for which you are grateful. You can purchase a gratitude journal online, but you can also use a blank notebook or the notes section of your smartphone.  

You may be thinking, “I don’t have time for this.” You may be fighting crowds at the grocery store or trying to figure out daycare as the schools temporarily close down. But it is like the old story that if you say you don’t have time to meditate, you need to meditate. 

Now is an excellent a time to start a gratitude journal. You will be surprised how many things exist in your life that bring joy, happiness and gratitude. So, yes­­—you do have time, and you might as well start now. Good luck.