• Churchill School & Center

The Importance of Gratitude

Each Wednesday a member of The Churchill School and Center's Mental Health Support Services Department will provide some insight into helping all of us manage ourselves and loved ones during this challenging situation. We hope you enjoy the posts and find them helpful and useful.

Hi, I'm Shannon Dressler and I'm a high school social worker at the Churchill School and Center. Today, I wanted to focus on the importance of gratitude. You may be asking herself, so what might this mean with regard to how we respond to the immediate concerns of COVID-19. In the midst of losses and fears, how can we direct our attention for the gifts that remain in our lives so as to build greater capacity to face what is challenging? Gratitude allows us to remain in the present.

It magnifies as positive emotions and can block toxic negative emotions. Studies have shown the benefit of that gratitude. Grateful reflections are more stress resistant. There's a number of studies showing that the face of serious trauma, adversity and suffering, if people have a grateful disposition, they'll recover more quickly. I believe gratitude gives people a perspective for which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post traumatic stress and lasting anxiety. We are in the midst of a trauma and need moments to reflect on things to be grateful about.

Grateful people also have a higher sense of self worth. I think that's because when you're grateful, you have the sense that someone is looking out for you and you're looking out for somebody else. Or you notice a network of relationships past and present of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now. Showing gratitude can enhance our immune systems, lower blood pressure and support better sleep. Some of you may already have practices in your homes around gratitude.

However, I wanted to provide a list of ways you can show and receive gratitude. First, to keep a gratitude journal for listing five things for which you are grateful for every week. This practice works, I think, because it consciously, intentionally focuses our attention on developing more grateful thinking and on eliminating ungrateful thinking.

Second, gratitude jars. Everyone in the family can write something down each day, set for seven days straight, about something they're grateful for. Then on the seventh day, you can read them all together during family dinner.

Third, you can write thank you notes or place signs in the windows to those in the front lines and first responders like health care workers, those restocking grocery store shelves, working at pharmacies, and staff check out counters.

Fourth, reach out to someone you have not spoken to in a while and let them know you're thinking of them. This will be meaningful to both of you.

Fifth, take a new perspective on daily tasks such as cooking and look for the joy in spending time preparing, however simple, for others and yourselves.

Sixth, when handwashing focus on things you are grateful for. This is a perfect 20 second mindfulness exercise.

Seventh, you can always find gratitude, meditation and mindfulness activities online. When we are able to find moments to focus on what we are grateful for. This will help build a greater capacity to face what is challenging and be present with each other to help support through this very difficult time. I know how grateful I am for this Churchill community and being part of an exceptional group of educators, faculty and families.

Please remember, the Mental Health Team are here to support in any capacity and hope you are all safe and healthy. Thank you.

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