2020 blows. So much has gone wrong this year.

And it’s kind of just been one thing after another, hasn’t it? First we had the wildfires in Australia. Then COVID-19 punched the world the face when springtime came around, and it’s been kicking us on the ground ever since. We’ve had riots over racial inequality and police brutality, more wildfires, a facepalm-inducing presidential election, and even murder hornets for crying out loud.

Not exactly a year for gratitude, is it?

Or maybe it is.

I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Yesterday, our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, addressed the world and invited us to focus on the things we’re grateful for and pray to alleviate the world’s current calamities. You can watch the whole message below. It’s a fabulous use of twelve minutes no matter what you believe or who/what you worship.

https://youtu.be/tlcILxGmVrI

President Nelson invited us to use social media as our own personal “gratitude journals” for the next seven days, sharing something daily that we’re grateful for. If you aren’t a member of my faith or of any faith at all, I’d invite you to do the same because, let’s be real, it’s not a bad idea no matter who you are.

But why would gratitude make a difference in a year where it feels like everything has gone wrong? Out of curiosity, I actually Googled “how does gratitude change the brain,” and the first result was a pretty insightful article from Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine.

The article outlines a study where three groups of adults were given professional counseling. Group one was also instructed to write a letter of gratitude to someone each week for three weeks. Group two was instructed to write their deep thoughts and feelings on negative experiences. Group three didn’t do anything beyond the counseling.

What did they find? The first group (the one that wrote gratitude letters) showed exceptionally better mental health than the other two groups over three months. Group one’s gratitude letters shifted their attention away from negative emotions such as envy or resentment. The effects weren’t immediate, but when the gratitude group consistently practiced over a period of time, mental health improved noticeably.

So yeah, maybe gratitude is exactly what we need right now. If you want to follow my gratitude journal, you’re welcome to follow me on Instagram. But please, consider joining in using the hashtag #givethanks. It’ll do all of us some good.

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