Building Resilience by Practicing Gratitude

Building Resilience by Practicing Gratitude

Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change. Dealing with bullying, changes, setbacks, loss, grief, and even global pandemics is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of life. How can we empower ourselves and others to be more resilient? Gratitude! 

Since we often talk about gratitude at this time of year, it can be easy to gloss over the powerful influence it can have in our daily lives.  But research has shown that gratitude can not only reduce stress, it can help overcome trauma as well. 

Robert Emmons has spent over a decade researching gratitude.  He teaches that a grateful attitude can help gain perspective on life. It can energize, heal emotional wounds, and bring hope.  Gratitude can help us to cope and be more resilient. Dr. Emmons has found, through his work and multiple studies, that gratitude does indeed increase happiness and reduce feelings of depression. Gratitude has also been found to reduce other negative emotions, including envy, resentment, and even regret. 

We may not always feel grateful, but we can practice being grateful in order to gain resilience to deal with all of the challenges life throws at us.  

Gratitude is about appreciating what we DO have and experience, rather than focusing on what may be lacking. It doesn’t mean ignoring or repressing the negative, but instead knowing that there is always something to be thankful for, even in our most difficult times. 

In The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, Corrie writes about the gratitude her sister, Betsie, had for the fleas and appalling conditions they endured while captive in a concentration camp.  Betsie noticed that their deplorable circumstances helped to ensure that the guards left them unattended for large portions of the day. This enabled them to study and discuss their religion and other things more freely than if they had been constantly watched over.  Her gratitude helped her to be more resilient to endure all that was inflicted. Imagine being grateful for fleas!

A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports found that “gratitude intervention on mental well-being as a means of improving not only emotion regulation, but also self-motivation”, was powerful. Gratitude can help lower our heart rate, feel calmer, and regulate our emotions better. Gratitude can build our resilience!

By practicing gratitude regularly, we can create a habit of being thankful for what we have. Gratitude builds on itself so the more you practice and express it, the more you feel. 

But how do we practice gratitude?  

We can make mental lists of things we are grateful for in the moment.  We can write these things down in a journal, notebook, or on our phone. We can send a gratitude text, note, or letter.  We can create a jar of things we are grateful for, each written on a small piece of paper.   

Resilience is a skill that can be grown through practice!  As we practice, we will improve and become more resilient.  We will be able to more easily see things that we are grateful for.  We will find greater connection and community.  We can be grateful for having gotten through hard things like being bullied. Knowing we have been successful in the past will help us to be more resilient in the future. We will be better prepared to STAND!


How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times

Effects of Gratitude Mediation on Neural Network Functional Connectivity and Brain-Heart Coupling

Corrie ten Boom

Gratitude Makes us Happier and More Resilient: 3 Practices to Try Every Day