Practicing Gratitude in Quarantine
Be grateful. Give thanks. Count your blessings.
A lot easier said than done in a time when there are so many ‘unknowns’ hanging in the balance and you don’t know when your next paycheque will be coming. Not knowing when you will be getting back to work and what that work will look like when things do go back to ‘normal’ is extremely unsettling. For anyone like myself who is a contract worker, you’re probably worried about when that next gig will come and how much longer you can sustain yourself in this ‘quarantine life’. So amongst all these feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, stress and discomfort during quarantine…how can we practice gratitude and why should we do it?
At a time when it feels like the world is pressing the ‘reset button’ perhaps this is an opportunity for us to explore our very own reset and get back in touch with the smaller things that contribute to us feeling content, safe, loved and appreciated. Think about the last time (before heading into quarantine) where you took the time to stop and smell the roses? When was the last time you just sat with a cup of coffee (instead of grabbing one on-the-go as you rushed to your next meeting or class) and enjoyed each sip, feeling it’s warmth course through your body? Paying attention to these moments can truly connect you to a more mindful experience of these small pleasures.
What is something you are missing while in quarantine? Something that perhaps you took for granted as you moved through your everyday routine, without really thinking about how you might feel should this thing be taken away from you (which for most us, has been). Maybe it’s a morning ritual that now you can’t enjoy as you have to take care of your very active toddler, or being able to take a weekly yoga class with your favourite yoga instructor that always put you in the best mood.
My ‘something’ is being with my dance students in the studio. I take great pride in my work as a dance educator and I know how big of a responsibility it is, but as I’m sure many of you who are now home schooling your own kids realize…being a teacher is WORK! Not only am I teaching the technical aspects, creating with and training these young artistic athletes, but I have to take on the role of mentor, carer, psychologist, cheerleader, discipliner, shoulder to cry on, hair fixer, and the list goes on. After being in this line of work for just over 20 years, it can take its toll and truthfully, there are days when (surprise, surprise) I do not want to go into the studio!
As soon as I heard about the closure of schools in Ontario due to Covid-19, my heart sank as I knew this would obviously affect the course of my dancers’ training and their competitive season. It’s been approximately 50 days since our first (and potentially last) competition and I miss my students so much! I miss the hugs and the high fives. I miss seeing them encourage their teammates. I miss the moments in the wings right before they go on stage and I give them that last “Good luck! Enjoy it!” I’m not gonna lie – I have taken these moments for granted at times. So for me, this quarantine has truly reawakened me to how grateful I am to be a dance teacher and for all of the magical moments I get to witness and experience with my ‘kids’.
This is actually the first time I have expressed this out loud. You know what…it feels good! Just by reflecting on things we are grateful for and giving thanks, we can boost our mood, feel energized and generally happier about life. This is due to a hit of dopamine (one of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brain) that is released into our system every time we express gratitude and is exactly why this practice is so important. In these times where it feels like so many things are out of our own hands, practicing gratitude and appreciation is something you have complete control over.
Here are a few ways you can practice gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal – writing is a great way to creatively reflect on all the things you have to be grateful for. Write for 5, 10, 20 minutes a day. Write down anything you feel grateful for during your day, no matter how small it may seem. My sister recently gave birth and has been navigating through the joys (and hard lessons) of being a new mother. The other day, her baby girl slept an extra hour in the morning, and my sister was able to enjoy a HOT cup of coffee for the first time in a while. Something so small but she was so grateful for that extra time for herself. Look back on these days that you write and notice how you feel.
- List 3 things you are grateful for at the beginning of the day – this is a habit I have been trying to create with my husband. It doesn’t happen everyday, but when it does, it is a wonderful start to the day and I always notice I am in a much more positive mood. You can of course do this on your own, with a partner, or get your kids involved!
- Thank You Notes – yes, just like the ones Jimmy Fallon writes to inanimate objects and situations, as well as people. You can keep these in a journal, write them on sticky notes, put them in the bathroom for your partner to find (one of my faves), or even hide them somewhere for yourself, only to stumble upon them in the future like you would when you find that $5 bill in your winter coat pocket. These mini mood-boosters will not only make you feel good, but will surely put a smile on the face of anyone you write them to.
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone that has hurt you – this one can be tough but also very liberating. When you do this, be sure you don’t have any feelings of animosity as you write, and if there are any feelings of anger or resentment you wish to express, write them on a separate piece of paper and tear it to shreds or even burn it. Reflect on what this person has done for you. How have they shaped you? Who would you be without them having been in your life? This will probably bring up a lot of buried feelings, but move through it and notice how you feel afterwards and in the days and weeks that follow.
- Smile. Say Thank You. – Easy! When you say the words, genuinely mean them. Feel the dopamine flow…
We are all moving through this strange time in our own ways and some days are better than others. My intention has been to ‘be gentle’ on myself right now – not putting too much pressure on myself to be productive or to learn a new skill. I know that my experience of this quarantine will be different from the next person but I also know that, while we are physically divided, there is a certain shift in energy happening. We are all being called upon to reflect, pause, reassess and be thankful – for our health, our homes, the time we get to spend reconnecting with loved ones, and the smaller things in life, like enjoying each sip of a hot cup of coffee.