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Building Resilience Through Gratitude

Laura Arnett, Testing Center Coordinator

This year has been one for changes. However, although we are in unusual times, change is inevitable, and examples of change are all around us. From welcoming a new person into the family, learning new chiropractic concepts/techniques, or making new friends, change does not have to be viewed as “negative,” although it can feel that way sometimes.

Research, however, has discovered that a daily gratitude practice allows us to stay more in the present moment. In fact, building this kind of psychological flexibility has been “associated with improved quality of life and wellbeing, and is a primary determinant of mental health and behavioural effectiveness” (as cited in The Weekend University, 2020).

As Professor Stephen Hayes has defined it, psychological flexibility “allows you to stay rooted in the present moment when difficult thoughts, feelings and sensations arise, and enables you to take a broader, more holistic view of the situation.” The ability to stay in the moment enables you to have space to think more about your decisions, or as Hayes notes, “Instead of basing your decisions and actions on the fluctuating thoughts and emotions of the moment, you can choose your response according to your deeply held values and your long- term vision for your life” (The Weekend University, 2020).

Developing practices that help you to stay in the moment, such as yoga, intentional breathing exercises, gratitude and more, can being to strengthen your resilience. Our resilience is our ability to bounce back from difficulties. In other words, resilience is what helps you to get back up after a fall or lower test grade than you’d hoped for.

Gratitude, the feeling of contentment in the way things are right now, works hand-in-hand with resilience. When we’re grateful for the here and now, our worries about the future or the rehashing of past events. By establishing a practice of gratitude for the way things are, you’ll increase your ability to be in the moment when taking an exam or writing a paper instead of worrying so much about the “what ifs.”

Remember you’ll want to practice gratitude daily in order for it to take “root” in your brain, so choosing a time of day to think of the things you’re grateful for, such as after waking up or before bed, is a great way to establish a consistent practice.

Try out one or more of the following strategies to become more psychologically flexible and build resilience.

Be a Metal Detector

Imagine you’re a human metal detector, but you find positive things instead of coins. By looking for the positive, one possible result may be that your daily tasks and courses seem more manageable. Taking a daily walk outside is a good way to stay grounded and present-focused to be more aware of what’s around you. So, make a conscious effort each day to look for the positive moments.

G.L.A.D.

In this technique, you’ll think of specific things throughout your day for which you are appreciative, so this is a good one to try after work or before bed. To practice G.L.A.D., each day think of

  • One thing you are Grateful for today
  • One new thing you Learned about yourself or someone else. This can be a fact or lesson.
  • One small Accomplishment or goal that made you feel good.
  • One thing of Delight or happiness that touched you today.

Through this practice, you may gain needed confidence and energy that will allow to set some emotional or academic goals.

Try New Things

Sometimes with so many stressful things going on, recent changes and even negative people, a change may be what you need. But you may say, “I have an already full schedule. How can I fit anything more into my life?”  However, worrying about what is troubling you can take over your time and disrupt your routine. By taking time for yourself, you can relax to focus on what positive changes you want to make. A new thing to try could be as easy as

  • Watching a new tv series
  • Performing a small act of kindness
  • Trying a new recipe for dinner

Mixing up your routine can work to get you out of a rut and get some much-needed perspective on what is troubling you.

Just like establishing a workout routine, creating a gratitude practice takes time to make it stick, but the end goal—less anxiety, more clarity, less stress—is well worth it. So, whether it’s incorporating it into something you already do every day like waking up, yoga practice, running, walking, or journaling before bed, find at least one thing every day to be thankful for.

 

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” – Lao Tzu