eNewsletter - December 2020

Behavioral Health Partners




Moments for Gratitude in 2020
Melissa Hedlund Nelson, PhD, LCPC, ATR-BC, SEP, CADC] 

As winter begins and we approach one year of being immersed in the coronavirus pandemic, gratitude is taking on a new meaning. It’s been hard to embrace gratitude with the darkness we’ve seen this year. 

In 2020, we’ve faced challenges we have never faced before — great loss, death, high unemployment rates, furlough, food and cleaning supply shortages, PPE shortages, housing insecurity, virtual learning, grief, constant threat and fear, exhaustion, isolation and disconnection, depression, anxiety, trauma, increase in substance use, among others — and now, we are in our third nationwide wave of positive COVID-19 cases. 

Our daily lives have changed, and stressors have increased greatly with the challenges the pandemic has brought forth. While connecting with gratitude does not take away the darkness, it provides glimmers of light and hope to help us keep moving through the darkness. 

Gratitude is needed now more than ever and can be felt or expressed in whatever way makes most sense for you. According to Harvard Medical School, gratitude is “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature or a higher power.” 

Taking a moment to connect with gratitude is essential during crises as it allows respite from stress, fear and anxiety and a moment to connect with the goodness in the world. It may be something as simple as stepping outside (whether at work or home) and feeling the cool air and sunshine touch your face, getting kisses from a fuzzy friend, looking into the eyes of a loved one, sending a text or email letting someone know you are thinking of them or savoring a hot drink. Gratitude is present in these gentle, mindful moments, these moments when we are not thinking about stressors but connecting with the light. 

Research has shown that engaging with gratitude not only provides respite and moments to connect with the goodness in the world but it also affects well-being, is a protective factor, and can bring energy, hope and moments of bliss and happiness. Other ways to engage with gratitude include: keeping a gratitude journal and writing three things daily you are grateful for, gifting a verbal or written statement of gratitude, asking someone how they are doing and listening and being present as they respond, and taking a moment at the beginning and end of the day to engage with mindfulness meditation or silent reflection. 

There are a variety of apps that can help track moments of connecting with gratitude to help remind you to take this time during the day. In this time of disconnect, gratitude is a way to connect with others, a higher power and/or yourself. Expressing gratitude does not need to be done loudly or in large ways, it can be felt or gifted in small, gentle moments that replenish and allow for us to keep moving forward, together.


  • Emmons, R.A. (2007a). Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
  • Emmons R.A. (2007b). Gratitude, subjective well-being, and the brain. In R.J. Larsen & M. Eid (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 469-492). Guilford Press. 
  • Emmons R.A. (2010). Why gratitude is good. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good 
  • Emmons R.A. & Shelton C.M. (2002). Gratitude and the science of positive psychology. In C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 459-471). Oxford University Press. Harvard Medical School. “Giving thanks can make you happier.” (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier