This year has been a challenging one for a lot of people of all ages. It has likely been a particularly worrisome one for seniors, especially those already struggling with existing health conditions. The impact of the coronavirus has forced us to stay indoors during a time when we are usually out visiting and enjoying various social events. Older adults have the additional worry about exacerbated effects of Covid-19 which can threaten their health and even their lives.
How is it possible to stay positive in the face of such adversity?
Many people are longing for the good old days right about now, when it was easier to stay in contact with friends and family and carry out regular routines and activities. When everything seems so complicated, typical reactions are anger, frustration, despair, and even depression. The idea of gratitude and being grateful for what you have may seem unsuitable and inappropriate at this time, but it really can make a world of difference in maintaining an optimistic attitude.
Favourable Effects of Gratitude for Seniors
Studies have shown that notions of gratitude can have significantly positive and measurable effects on the brains of older adults. Research indicates that the act of expressing gratitude can have beneficial effects on:
- Mental health and cognition
- Physical health
- Lower blood pressure
- Better quality sleep
- Social relationships
Consistently showing gratitude helps sustain feelings of happiness and contentment which can have wide-reaching effects on many aspects of daily living. However, it is usually not as easy as saying, “OK, I am now a grateful person, let the good times roll”. It often requires a conscious effort to affect real change.
How to Exercise Gratitude in Daily Living
There are many different ways to show your gratitude to the people you care about, and even yourself. Getting into the regular practice of expressing gratitude is easy to get started, and very inexpensive and uncomplicated to sustain. Some great ways to get into the habit of gratitude include:
- Surround yourself with positivity
- Stay present
- Try something creative
- Keep a journal
Posting mindful and inspirational quotes and images around your living space can be very uplifting. There are countless clever and motivational proverbs and quotations that help make you think about what it means to be grateful, and how positive thoughts translate into actions and rewards. Even if the reward is as simple as feeling satisfied and content at that moment in time. Surrounding yourself with positivity also includes the people you associate with regularly. There is no point in making time for people that generate hostility and make you feel poorly about yourself.
This may seem like a simple enough practice, but it is much easier said than done for a lot of people. Making a conscious effort to focus on what is around you in the present can help inspire feelings of gratitude. Paying close attention to thoughts and feelings can help identify sources of negativity which can then be explored and adjusted with conscious thought.
Take staying in the present one step further with regular meditative practices. Stress and anxiety are typical culprits that can lead to negativity and ingratitude. Mediation is a proven way to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Being forced to focus fully on the present can help bring a new perspective to stressful situations and negative emotions. Meditation can also help stimulate mental activity by enhancing imagination and creativity.
Try Something Creative
Even if you are not a creative person by nature, flexing your creative muscles can be an extremely effective way to keep the mind active and positive. Doing something creative can have similar effects to meditation by exerting total focus on a task which can have soothing effects on the brain. Psychologist and Art Therapist Dr. Cathy Malchiodi found that creative activity can lead to:
- An increase in positive emotions
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Better immune function
- Reduced risk of depression
Keep a Journal
The simple act of writing down your thoughts and feelings can be an incredibly therapeutic process. Keeping a gratitude journal can be as simple as writing down one thing you are grateful for to start each day. This will help get your day started on the right foot opening the door to new experiences with an open mind and optimistic outlook.