In the middle of COVID, social distancing, and isolation finding the silver lining might be a bit of a challenge. But if we use this time to lean into the slowdown to reflect, we might just find some inner peace and a healthier way to perceive our environment. The art of practicing gratuity can help you find solace and possibly even an appreciation for the slower pace. The first thing to remember is HOW you feel can often be the lens you look through and can drastically impact the information you receive through that lens. We have heard a lot of self-help quotes through the years that take this phenomenon into account. Lou Holtz's famous quote, "Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." Our perception is how we perceive and our attitude is how we react to those perceptions, but they both depend on one another. We bring our attitudes into every interaction, and it impacts our perceptions of how we experience the world. When feeling depressed, irritated, anxious, or even scared, our mood shades how we perceive the events we experience and impacts how we respond.
Depression is especially hard. Most people are overcome with feelings of worthlessness. "Why socialize, I have nothing to offer for conversation." "I don't want to bother my parents with how I feel. I am already a huge burden on them." I tell my patients that depression causes people to see the dark corners of your mind and stay there. It is like mold. It wants and needs dark places and isolation grow. Depression will make you crave isolation and sleep, which is the last thing you need to get better. I ask them to tell me of a time when they were feeling their worst, and the answer is always when they are alone and have nothing to do. The built-in isolation of COVID can compound what is already so hard to overcome for those suffering from depression. It gives them a reason to stay home and isolate. No excuse needed.
Irritability is another emotion that can become difficult with stay at home orders. Families are spending more and more time together. You can feel mad about the regulations, politics, people not wearing protection, or financial strains. Right now, there are so many stressors that are impactful and can feel out of your control which in turn increases anxiety and irritability. Not to mention the increased noise and tasks of homeschooling children. Your anger can also be a lens to perceive events, making you feel like life is happening to you rather than you experiencing life on your own terms. "Why me?" "I never have good luck." "Of course, this would happen to me!" Those thoughts are a way to confirm what you are already experiencing. In a sense, you are looking for evidence of the negative. When feeling irritable and angry it changes your perception and your attitude.
So why does gratitude help? As I said, depression makes you see the dark spots in the room, and it will make you ignore the light. It can become a habit, and when it is, it is hard to breakthrough. Gratuity needs to be practiced daily to help change your thought patterns from focusing on the dark to noticing the light. I often have people journal a sentence or two on how their day has been and how they are feeling, more of a marker of where they are in life as a reference. Then end every entry with an exercise:
1. Manifestation: What do you want to bring into your life. This is the concept of putting it in the universe and stating it out loud, but writing it down sets a marker. It can be anything from your desire to be closer to a loved one to better health or a new job. These can be repeated but must be rewritten daily. The act of actually putting it on paper helps to set the goal.
2. Gratitude: Three things you are grateful for in the day. At first, it might need to be something simple like the birds singing, your child's smile, or a grade on a test. No matter what, find three things. When you do this daily, you start to notice yourself searching for something to write down during your day, looking for the positive, noticing the light. Changing your focus and your perception.
3. Love of self: Three things you like about you! It can also be an accomplishment either way; this entry is positive about you. Confirming you belong, did okay, are valued, worthy of love, and of having a place in this world. Only you can impact your self-belief.
Practicing gratefulness is an art, but research has proven being grateful is the key to a happier existence. So try it. Lean into the slowdown and create a time of self-reflection. Take some time daily to appreciate silence and the small things in life, try some meditation, journal, reflect on your inner thoughts and desires. You have the ability. Do you have the motivation to slow it down, find the little bits of light in your day and write them down? It can change your mood and just might help you see the beauty you were missing.