Even though it may feel like the same old same old, 2021 does usher in a newness that we can all appreciate. It may be as simple as starting a fresh, new calendar or, for those who use checks, getting used to writing a different number for the year. We still have a long way to go before we have some semblance of what life was like before the pandemic, but there is hope that the end of the tunnel is not too far off. Encouragement along the way will make the journey more pleasant.

Encouraging Gratitude

Being thankful is a theme that is often relegated to November. The Thanksgiving feast’s anticipation reminds people to take time out to think about the things for which they are grateful. In January, thoughts turn to all the things we haven’t done, but with a fresh start, we resolve to do them now. And by Valentine’s Day, those resolutions have been forgotten by about 80% of those who make them.

Last year was difficult for most of the world without much respite. For the elderly and the shut-in, the months of isolation with no end in sight has been challenging. Even during that, we can find things for which to be grateful. The feeling of gratitude is itself a healing balm to the individual, and for that, we must be grateful.

Many of us have been fortunate to know at least one person who exemplifies the grateful life. Though adversity is continually being laid on that individual’s doorstep, he or she has the admirable virtue of being able to find something for which to be grateful. Even though that person is not happy with the circumstances, that individual can find something positive. 

Healthier Living with Gratitude

On the surface, it may seem that the person who is always grateful may be rather pollyannaish. Some may view that individual as not very realistic or living amongst the clouds. However, research reveals many real health benefits for those who adopt a lifestyle that makes gratitude a daily practice. Depending on the source, among the top five are:

  • Improved physical health 
  • Enhanced empathy
  • Improved relationships
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved sleep quality

We all live in the real world, and it has become more real than ever as the challenges of living through a pandemic take their toll. Cultivating gratitude is not an ideological quirk. It is a way of acknowledging the positive aspects of your life while coping with adversity.

As 2021 begins, perhaps all of us could do with a dose of gratitude as we reflect on those positive bits in our lives. And maybe this will be a much better year if we intentionally carry the practice of appreciation forward throughout the coming months.

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