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Gratitude Builds Resilience in the Hardest of Times

A look into the psychology behind gratitude and resilience.

Enrico Perini/Pexels
Source: Enrico Perini/Pexels

Resilience is broadly defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the ability of people to recover quickly from something unpleasant. Surely the experience of COVID has been unpleasant. Is it possible at all to recover at all, let alone quickly? What does it mean to “recover” from the impact of COVID, even in the absence of disease?

For those who have lost loved ones, resilience means continuing on with their lives with patience and strength. Others who have not lost loved ones continue to live with difficult, subpar living conditions. Resilience means finding ways to adjust, move on, possibly succeed in terms of goals, and more. Gratitude can play a role here.

Here are three ways gratitude can help build resilience in the hardest of times:

1. Gratitude supports active coping.

Active coping is when an individual finds a way to work with stressors and reaction to stressors in daily living. Gratitude supports active coping by enabling people to approach a problem rather than avoiding one. For example, if parenting during COVID is particularly stressful, gratitude for having kids may encourage parents to play or interact with them and thereby support kids’ well-being in new ways. Resilience here is gratitude-based by reconsidering what is clearly valued in one’s life and subsequently finding new practices of strength to bring satisfaction and joy into pandemic living.

2. Gratitude can help those who’ve experienced trauma and vice-versa.

Gratitude has been shown to lead to posttraumatic growth and well-being, and vice-versa i.e. trauma has also been seen to induce gratefulness in people. A study looking at individuals losing a parent early in life revealed that gratitude helped lower depression. At the same time, 79 percent of those who lost a parent in childhood reporting gaining an appreciation for life.

COVID has brought fatigue, if not trauma, for most which can be aided via gratitude. On the flip side, COVID’s impact may have helped us gain an appreciation for things small and big.

3. Gratitude builds resilience for students who find learning challenging.

Gratitude has also been shown to help students build resilience toward learning. A study looking at this found that gratitude reminders via text helped students gain focus, confidence, and put more effort into learning. The virtual environment for kids and young adults these days is challenging enough to warrant gratitude as a helpful ingredient.

Gratitude’s ability to shift perspective in the midst of stress, trauma, and more is significant. By building resilience in the hardest of times, gratitude facilitates strength, motivation, and active problem-solving.

COVID has brought very hard times, and gratitude is one of the tools to employ to thrive and see the way out.

What are some ways you can practice gratitude?

  • Write a gratitude post on social media each week.
  • Show your appreciation for a supportive friend.
  • Share a story of appreciation for a past achievement.
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