Stressful situations do have silver linings and positive outcomes. For example, while the news related to COVID-19 can be disheartening, the pandemic has had a major impact on air quality in major global cities, from Los Angeles to Wuhan.
“Trying to see the bright side of difficult circumstances is beneficial for your mental and physical health,” said Julie Arnold, LMSW, Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services. “Tapping into positive thinking can help you problem solve and be more creative, strengthen your immune system and build resilience.”
One of the most powerful tools for staying optimistic is gratitude. Here are five suggestions for getting started:
- Give yourself some grace. With so many new challenges thrown at us, nobody is at their best right now. If you’re not feeling particularly grateful, don’t be too hard on yourself. “It’s completely normal to experience a range of emotions during this time,” Arnold added. “Allow yourself to process these emotions however you need to process them, at your own pace.”
- Keep it simple. When it comes to expressing gratitude, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Jot down a few small things that make you smile throughout the day. It could be as simple as noting the sun shining on your face, appreciating a home-cooked meal or sharing some laughs with a friend over FaceTime.
- Show some love to our front line heroes. Say thank you or show your gratitude to food service, pharmacy, health care and other workers who are putting their own safety at risk to provide care and service to others. Make a sign for your front lawn, donate personal protective equipment or have food delivered to an essential worker. One of the most important ways you can thank those who are sacrificing so much is staying home as much as possible and following social distancing guidelines.
- Tell your loved ones how you feel, at home or through video chat. “Times like these can really put our lives in perspective,” Arnold said. “Family and friends are what matter most, so let your loved ones know how much they mean to you.”
- Take good care of you. Eat well, exercise and try to get quality sleep. Go outside to enjoy a little fresh air, relax with some yoga or meditation, or kick back with a book or watch your favorite Netflix show. Be gentle with yourself and do something every day just for you.
Remember, life will return to normal, even if it’s a new kind of normal. Practicing gratitude can help you cope and boost your peace of mind.
If you’re concerned someone you know is in mental health crisis, or is struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa County offers resources and support. Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services also provides access to comprehensive, compassionate and confidential mental health services for people of all ages.