People have varying ways of coping during the pandemic (may I remind you that there’s still a pandemic so please stay safe out there), from playing games to watching tv shows and movies to taking up hobbies, all are valid and are a great way to deal with anxiety and stress. Another good method has popped up: gratitude. While an additional dose of kindness in any situation is always welcome, a rise in thanking people for their efforts is evident. Shondaland’s Gina Hamadey shares her experience of how showing gratitude made her life slightly better:
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That heart-slowing sensation was real, even if I didn’t know it at the time.A 2017 studyby the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul examined the effects of gratitude and resentment on mental well-being, using heart rate as one indicator. The average heart rate was significantly lower while the participants were spending four minutes thinking grateful thoughts about their mothers, compared with spending those four minutes focused on moments or people who made them angry.
Each month of my gratitude year was dedicated to a different group of recipients, such as friends, family members, parenting helpers, career mentors, and favorite authors. The eight notes I wrote to my mother-in-law throughout the year changed the dynamic of our relationship: I became more aware of how much she does for our family, and she was touched by how much I noticed.
Among the many gratitude benefits, I experienced was a heightened sense of resilience. Writing the notes not only offered me a short-term feeling of calm, it made it easier to channel positive emotions in general. “Sitting with any feeling, whether positive, neutral, or negative, has the potential to rewire our neural connections due to our neuroplastic brains,” explainsBret Stetka, author of A History of the Human Brain. “When we use any brain network—whether for riding a bike or playing a guitar—those neuronal connections are strengthened and more easily called upon. Expressing gratitude and sitting with your positive feelings towards others bolsters these networks, making it easier for the brain to access that warmth.”
Image credit: Gina Hamadey