Gateway Gazette

AHS Healthy Together: Practising Gratitude

Giving and Getting Thanks Make Us Feel Better

A piece of chalk and a sidewalk are sometimes all you need to show your appreciation of others.

These are times like none other. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many ways COVID-19 has changed our lives. At the same time, we can turn uncertainty into resiliency. By being grateful, we can transform negative thoughts into positive intentions.

Gratitude feels good, both to give and to receive. Showing thanks can be one of the most effective ways to contribute and make a difference.

In recent weeks, countless Albertans have shown gratitude. For workers providing essential services to neighbours dropping off groceries. They’ve expressed their thanks in many ways. Paper hearts on windows, honking horns outside hospitals. Clapping from balconies and shining blue and green lighting on Edmonton’s High Level Bridge and the Calgary Tower.

Those who show appreciation often feel more connected, optimistic and happier with their lives.

Gratitude Is Good for Us

Dr. Nicholas Mitchell is Alberta Health Services’ provincial medical director for Addiction and Mental Health. He says being grateful is much like laughter. It helps our bodies produce hormones that are good for us.

“Humour and laughter improve our ability to handle stress,” Mitchell says. “Expressing gratitude—focusing on things that are positive and bring us joy or pleasure—causes similar changes in our brain and body.”

Gratitude can shift our attention away from stress and refocus it on the people who support us and the people we support.

We do need to be mindful about how we show gratitude. Certain acts of kindness may not be right for the times. We have to ensure our goodwill helps rather than harms. Protecting the health and well-being of all Albertans is critically important.

We can be grateful by doing what we all need to do. Keep at least two metres distance between others when in public. Stay at home. Wash your hands often and well.

Many people also want to give to the fight against COVID-19. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the Albertans’ generous offers. (See its Bits and Pieces program for details.) Foundations, trusts, faith-based groups and community groups are also working to help Albertans.

Appreciating What We Have

Tough times foster greater appreciation for what we have. And what we often take for granted. Such as a warm and safe place to live, good food to eat and caring loved ones in our lives.

Mitchell says our changing routines can create new, positive opportunities for growth. Being at home and changes to our routines gives us the chance to build new things into our routines.

“One great opportunity, particularly if you’re home with your family, is the chance to build in more family time. More time to connect with your children or your spouse, more time to have meaningful conversations.”

Mitchel encourages people to build in time to connect with those in your social circle, your friends and family. Social media, online calls, emails and phone calls can bring us closer while physical distancing.

Gratitude will help us get through this, and we will be stronger for it.

For more information, see Mitchell’s Mental Wellness Moment on laughter and gratitude in times of crisis.

How do you express your gratitude? Share your ideas and stories about gratitude and living through COVID-19 with us at: healthy.together@ahs.ca.

How Your Family Can Practise Gratitude

  • Take a few minutes to talk about what you’re grateful for that day.
  • Say “thank you” when someone does something nice for you, even when it’s small.
  • Write down some of the things you’re thankful for in a daily journal or a list on the fridge door.
  • Write a thank-you note to email to someone.
  • Talk about your favourite part of the day or week, and why you’re Grateful for it.
  • Connect with someone to say how much you appreciate them.
Gratitude makes us stronger, more resilient. It’s also linked to our well-being.

Gratitude makes us stronger, more resilient. It’s also linked to our well-being.

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