Episode 15: Cultivating Gratitude during COVID, Where do I Start?

Episode 15: Cultivating Gratitude during COVID, where do I start?

Today, we are going to be spending time today talking about our mental health, gratitude. We will review how being grateful can help us navigate fear, loneliness, and overwhelm that I know many of you are experiencing amid this COVID epidemic.

Episode Resources: 

Cultivating Gratitude during COVID, where do I start?

By Tricia Stefankiewicz

Today, we are going to be spending time today talking about our mental health, gratitude. We will review how being grateful can help us navigate fear, loneliness, and overwhelm that I know many of you are experiencing amid this COVID epidemic. 

When I look back on difficult times in my own life, I find that being grateful helped give perspective at times when I found myself going down the rapid hole of despair and worry. After my son was born, I found myself on crutches for an entire year. I had just come off maternity leave and had no idea how I was going to work at my full-time job while on crutches, as it required a lot of walking to complete the required tasks. I figured out that I could buy a motorized scooter to help me, but it cost a lot of money. Unbeknownst to me, my friends and colleagues pitched in and purchased this scooter for me as they knew it was something I needed. I can’t begin to describe to you the overwhelming joy and appreciation I had for everyone who helped me during that time. I’m not sure any thank you note would have been able to describe the sense of love and gratitude I felt in that moment. I had many moments of appreciation during that time that really help me feel connected to others, loved, understood, and just so grateful. 

This is an extreme example, but I know you have also felt this sense of gratitude. Whether it’s getting off the phone with a good friend who “Just gets you” or someone helping with your kids when you are struggling the most. These experiences leave us feeling lucky that we have found people in our lives that we are connected to, care about us and want to help make our lives just a little bit easier.  I know we are all struggling with that feeling so let’s spend time talking about what gratitude is, the benefits, and how you can cultivate gratitude in your own life

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the practice of focusing on what you have rather than what is missing in your life. It is an acknowledgement of the joy found in the small things and provides perspective that there is something bigger than us. 

How is gratitude beneficial?
Practicing gratitude improves physical and psychological health as well as enhances our sense of well-being. It decreases feelings of anxiety and depression, Research suggests that those who practice gratitude have a greater sense of happiness, clarity, resilience and decreased stress levels. The practice of being grateful helps strengthen and maintain relationships, feel the abundance life has offered us, and helps us live a more generous life. It allows us to see the positive impact and value others have provided. Women who can cultivate gratitude have a greater sense of happiness, contentment, optimism, improved immunity, and decreased anxiety. 

What are some ways we can cultivate gratitude in our own life?


Mindfulness allows us to get quiet and open all our senses so that we notice and enjoy the richness that life has offered to us. Practicing mindfulness allows us to become intensely aware of our feelings which then helps foster a sense of gratitude in our lives. No matter what we are currently experiencing, most of us are lucky enough to have someone who loves and cares about us whether it’s a spouse, partner, children, parents, siblings, or friends. 

Everyone always talks about wanting to be happy without realizing that being grateful is what ultimately leads us to being “happy”. 

There’s a great TED Talk that talks more about this concept of happiness and gratitude by David Steindl-Rast if this is something you wish to explore further.  Want to be happy? Be grateful. David Steindl-Rast  

What are some other ways we can cultivate gratitude?

Gratitude Journal

Research suggests writing down what you are grateful for daily or weekly can help provide joy and contentment and remind you to focus on your positive experiences. This practice will allow you to become better at recognizing the good things that are happening in your life.  

Some tips: 

  • It can be a plain notebook, fancy journal, or even on your phone 
  • Pick a time of day that you can consistently maintain this practice
    • At bedtime may sound ideal but if you are busy putting the kiddos to bed or just too tired from your workday, then maybe morning would be better. 
  • Some prompts could be: 
    • What are you grateful for today? Some days it may be something as simple as Netflix, a tablet to help keep the kids occupied, or a cup of coffee or matcha tea latte.
    • Did someone or a pet do something that made you smile?
  • When you are having a difficult day, go back and look at what you wrote to remind you of the simple things that provided you joy. 


Research suggests that volunteering and serving others is perhaps one of the best ways to feel a sense of gratitude. That is because volunteering and serving is a way to gain perspective and appreciation for the simple things you may otherwise have taken for granted. Volunteering as a family helps provide meaningful and valuable time together while also exposing your children to people and families that may be different from your own.  In short, helping others may help you and your family develop a quick, reliable, sense of gratitude. 

Now that we have reviewed why volunteering and altruism are beneficial, how can we make this happen in a mask wearing, socially distanced time? Look around your local community to see if any opportunities present itself. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Donate food items to a local food bank or food pantry
  • Provide used clothes or supplies to a women’s shelter
  • Prepare and/or delivering meals to at risk seniors
  • Pick up groceries or supplies for a neighbor who is immunocompromised or unable to leave the house
  • Help families that have a parent working while trying to provide virtual instruction

 Spend time with the ones you love 

The practice of spending time with people who love and are connected to you is a great way to develop a deep sense of gratitude. However, amid this epidemic, it has become much more difficult for that connection to occur and we have had to rely on creative ways such as zoom calls, virtual hugs, and drive by car visits to make this happen. Perhaps now is the time that we schedule this practice to happen more regularly than it may be happening now. We become much more intentional. Maybe that looks like scheduling a standing, weekly, call with the person that understands you the most while someone watches your kids.  Maybe it’s having a socially distanced meal together weekly with a family member. Obviously, this experience will change based on your comfort level, pre-existing conditions, and amount of cases in your community. However, having a regular, intentional practice will remind you that the simple pleasures are perhaps the ones that provide you with the most sense of appreciativeness. 

Make it a family affair: Create a gratitude jar or a gratitude challenge 

Gratitude Jar: Decorate a plain jar. Each day, place something you are grateful on a piece of paper and place in the jar. During a hard time or every few months, take out the slips of paper and read them out loud to remind you of your blessings. You can also do something over the course of a year, starting on Jan 1st, adding blessing along the way and then reading the blessings to each other on Dec 31st

Gratitude Challenge: This could be a 30-day challenge with a different reminder of what to be grateful for each day personalized to your family’s set of values and beliefs. 

Now that we have talked about the benefits of gratitude and how to cultivate it in your life, what will you do today to find this sense of gratitude? Do you have a friend or family member that you wish to connect with? Do you have a piece of paper that you want to write down what you are grateful for and add to a jar to review later?  Gratitude is a choice and it’s a simple way to provide kindness to yourself and others, feel the abundance life has offered us, and helps us live a more generous life.

 “Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation.” John Ortberg


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