By Rachel Chase, M.S.
Limited Licensed Psychologist
Gratitude Journaling during COVID-19
Many families have recently experienced a myriad of new situations, stressors, and emotions as a result of COVID-19. Most significantly, a disruption to everyone’s lives, grieving the loss of normalcy and predictability, compromised livelihood, and a lack of control weigh heavily on each person in recent weeks. Even those who are in the role of providing support for others feel overwhelmed and anxious. As many have experienced, some days are harder than others, and it may be difficult to feel positive about anything that is happening right now. Many of us seek reassurance when anxious – it is our brains way of telling us “everything is going to be alright” or “I don’t need to worry about this.” However, no one can say with certainty what the outcome of these circumstances will be and how much it will impact our families.
What we do know is what we experience each day. While there are the added stresses experienced, there are also new ways to appreciate daily life. For many, that may take the form of spending more time with family, having time for that project at home that has needed to wait up until now, enjoying more time spent doing hobbies, and going outside to enjoy nature more frequently. It may also come in the form of taking more time to focus on your health, participating in your child’s education in a new way, finding creative ways to stay connected with friends and family, doing more good for the environment, and appreciating your responsibilities (e.g., job, errand, etc.) more fully.
It would be unrealistic to expect yourself or anyone else to not feel the impact of what is happening. However, it can help your overall well-being and emotional state to also take the time to experience positive emotions as well. A way in which this can be created is through gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling is a way in which you can build awareness of the positive aspects of your daily life, relieve stress, and have a space to process your day privately. Like any other journal, you can be as creative or structured as you would like. Below are some strategies for ensuring you are effective in your use of gratitude journaling:
- Write in your journal every night or every other night before bed, not only when something significantly positive happens or comes to mind
- Choose a level of detail that feels comfortable for you; for example, you could say “I am thankful for family,” or you could state “I appreciate my significant other for taking time to help our son with his schoolwork while I was on a Zoom call with my employer”
- Being “in the moment,” nonjudgmental, and aware of your experiences throughout the day will help you notice those positive moments more often and experience them more fully
- It can be helpful to create achievable goals for your gratitude journal – this may involve dedicating a certain amount of time or time of day for your journal, a certain number of things for which you are thankful, or even writing out prompts for yourself, such as “I am thankful for…” “Someone who helped me was…” “I enjoyed…”
Gratitude journaling has been shown to provide many benefits to children as well as adults. Encouraging your children to participate in gratitude journaling not only gives them something constructive, creative, and self-expressive to do with their time, but also gives them an opportunity to gain emotional awareness, process their emotions in an age-appropriate way, and have a space to privately state their thoughts and emotions. If your child is too young to create a gratitude journal, there are other ways in which your child can practice gratitude. Below are some examples of ways in which you can help your child practice gratitude and consider things for which they are thankful:
- Gratitude drawings
- Drawing something they are grateful for, their favorite things, or something that they wish for someone else
- Gratitude games
- Scavenger hunts – look for items, activities, individuals, etc. that make you feel safe, happy, loved, remind you of a good memory, etc.
- I-Spy – finding things that evoke certain positive emotions – such as “I Spy something that I enjoy doing with my sister” or “I spy something I use for my favorite craft”
- Being creative with gratitude
- Jar – writing a note or picture of something for which your child is thankful and putting it in a jar they decorate – when the jar is full, they can open it and read all the things for which they are grateful
- Acts of kindness – encouraging your child to perform an act of kindness for someone else to show gratitude – leaving a note for the mailman or garbageman saying “thank you,” helping with chores, or giving their brother a hug when he is struggling with school work
- Decorations – hanging gratitude notes on a tree, writing or drawing with washable paint on the window
These are tough, but memorable times. We have the opportunity to become stronger, feel more appreciative, and remember the most important parts of our lives. We are all in this together, and will emerge more resilient, aware, and grateful.
Rachel Chase, M.S. is a staff therapist at Child and Family Solutions Center. She works with children, teens and adults. She is conducting teletherapy with her clients and is accepting new referrals. She can be reached at 248-851-5437 and Rachel@childfsc.com