2020 is finally coming to a close. After all that's happened in the past 12 months, many are ready to move on from what seemed like a never-ending slog. But the last few days of the year is also a time to look back and reflect on the recent past. At first glance, it appears to be a foolish idea: why would we choose to relive a period of isolation, loss, and global catastrophe?
The answer lies not in what made us feel bad in the past year, but the moments -- however small or large -- that brought us joy and happiness. Instead of wallowing in despair or pretending like nothing grim happened, we choose to accept those things and search for flashes of positive emotion. By finding something to cherish and appreciate in a year defined by tragedy, we can cultivate one of the strongest positive emotions in existence: gratitude.
Finding something to be truly grateful for in 2020 is more of a challenge than in past years, but the effort is definitely worth it. Studies have shown that gratitude benefits mental health by shifting our focus away from toxic emotions -- meaning that looking for the positive in a situation actually helps disentangle us from the negative. Gratitude improves our relationships with our partners, increases our productivity, and improves our overall well-being.
The potential benefits of gratitude are huge, especially right now: if you can find the positive moments in a year like 2020, just imagine how you'd view a more typical year.
There are many ways to practice gratitude in your own life, every day. One of the simplest things to do is noticing when you already thank others, and taking a moment when you say it to actually pinpoint something specific to be grateful for, instead of just going through the motions. Other practices include consciously increasing how often you thank others, starting a gratitude journal, or trying a gratitude meditation.