2020… The number itself has become a bad omen. It gives people chills down their spines, makes their skin crawl, their hands tremble.

2020 has been a very difficult year for everybody. Not one person has been excluded from the torment that 2020 has caused.

Looking back, however, the last few years were all difficult in their own ways. The natural disasters, political divides, and unstable economy wreaked havoc on countless people, both inside the U.S. and without. It all came to a head this year. Many people have suffered financial hardships, or estrangements from friends and family because of political differences, or felt direct repercussions of racial injustice. Perhaps you had your business burned down or looted, or had a loved one fall seriously ill from Covid 19. It’s been a very serious downturn; almost apocalyptic.

I keep hearing people saying that they can’t wait for 2020 to be over, and I can’t say that I disagree. This year has been HARD.

One of the side effects of a year that has been so full of darkness is the difficulty that arises in finding gratitude. When you look around and all you see is people suffering, it’s no wonder that it seems there is almost nothing to be thankful for. That’s why this has been so difficult to write for me.

I’m torn because I think that gratitude is one of the most important things that we as humanity need to embrace. However, when so many people are facing so many hardships, I can’t go around telling everyone to always be grateful and happy. But, I can ask you to take some things into account.

Number One: Gratitude has been proven to strengthen mental health

This study was completed to assess how gratitude affects mental health. It included around 300 people who had struggled with mental health issues, mostly depression and anxiety. They were divided into three groups. The first group wrote letters of gratitude once a week. The second group kept a diary of their negative emotions that were giving them trouble. The third group, the control group, did not do any writing. All three groups received therapy while they were completing their activities. The study found that group one, the one who wrote gratitude letters, was the only group with significant improvement – and the improvement lasted for 12 weeks after they stopped writing the letters. They even found that writing the letters of gratitude created more of an improvement than even therapy.

Number two: Gratitude resets the negativity

Through the letter writing from the study above, it became obvious that adding more positive vocabulary did not do much to improve mental health. However, the letters reduced the number of negative words used, and that was what made all the difference. By engaging in an attitude of gratitude, you automatically start reducing negative vocabulary. The reduced amount of negative words, in turn, reduced the general negativity circulating in peoples’ minds. Then, the reduced negativity in minds created an all-around more positive mindset.

Number three: Gratitude promotes physical health

Isn’t this important during a pandemic? According to many different studies, expressing gratitude increased peoples’ physical well-being. There are less reported health complaints in people who regularly show gratitude than from people who did not make gratitude a habit. Some of the reported improvements include less headaches, better gastrointestinal health, less respiratory issues, clearer skin, and better sleep. Gratitude helps bolster health by making people more motivated to better take care of themselves because they start to care more. The reason why some of the more intricate effects of positivity help physical well being, including increased immune response and better cardiovascular health, is still a mystery. All we know is that positivity equals better health.

I know that it can be very hard right now to find the gratitude.

However, if you can find it, odds are that it’ll help you get through these difficult times a little bit easier. No, it’s not a cure for a depression or for financial problems, but it does take the edge off and make things look a little bit brighter. Take baby steps. Be thankful for your warm bed; your clothes; your phone or computer on which you’re reading this article. Find a friend to do this with you. This November, I’m making it a goal for myself to be as thankful as I possibly can. Will you join me?

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