“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.” – Douglas Wood
As a family caregiver, you consistently have a lot of your plate. Not only are you caring for a parent or loved one, but you also have your own responsibilities—children, a spouse, pets, or a variety of other things. Sometimes, it can seem like too much to handle.
These overwhelming reminders of schedules, appointments, and medications can make it difficult to stop and think about all that you have to be grateful for. While it may seem insignificant to do, finding gratitude in your everyday life can do wonders for your mental, emotional, and even physical health.
At Woodland Ridge, we are always discovering ways to be gracious in everything we do. We’re sharing some insight on why it’s important to be grateful and ways you can find gratitude in your life.
The Importance of Finding Gratitude
Taking the time to practice gratitude is important for everyone, but it can be especially beneficial for a caregiver. While caring for a loved one can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, it can also be overwhelming and stressful. So much unmanaged stress can ultimately lead to physical and emotional exhaustion—also known as caregiver burnout.
Not only does caregiver burnout take a toll on the caregiver, but it can also put the family member in their care at risk.
The good news is that practicing gratitude in your daily life can help prevent caregiver burnout, and even make you a stronger caregiver. Studies have shown that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships, (Harvard Health Publishing).” Simply put, taking a few moments every day to practice gratitude can improve your health, your life, and your relationship with others.
4 Ways for Caregivers to Practice Gratitude
1. Keep a Journal
If you’re new to the idea of “practicing gratitude,” one of the best ways to start is keeping a journal. The purpose of a gratitude journal is to physically write down the things that you’re grateful for. This could be anything from “Mom had a good day and was able to go on a walk” to “my favorite song came on the radio.”
Whether it’s big or small, write it down. The goal of the journal is to record good experiences, people, or things in your life. When you’re having a particularly rough day, you can go back and read these things and remember the good feelings associated with them.
2. Spend Time Outside
There is evidence that spending time outside can be good for your mind, body, and soul, and it can be a great way to exercise gratitude. If you feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, emails, and appointments, taking a moment to be outside can give you a sense of peace and a reminder of what’s really important in life.
You can also go outside with your loved one as a special activity to do together. Find a nice, walkable path with flowers, greenery, or water and just spend some time with each other in nature. If your family member is unable to walk, you can still go outside together and enjoy a sunny day. The fresh air, green grass, and sunlight can quickly shift your mindset to one of gratitude.
3. Appreciate Small Moments
Everyone experiences frustration and, at times, it can feel like there’s nothing to be thankful for. However, when trying to find gratitude, remind yourself that there is always something to be thankful for, even if it’s small.
Sometimes, the small moments can be the most meaningful. If you’re down because your loved one is having a particularly rough week, find joy in the simple things—maybe today your loved one was able to walk on their own, or they laughed at a joke you made. Changing your mindset to appreciate these little things will help you stay positive and grateful on days when things are not going as well.
4. Take Care of Yourself
While practicing gratitude is valuable for your overall well-being, it’s important to remember to take time for yourself outside of caregiving. Caring for a loved one can result in you neglecting your own needs, which can ultimately affect your ability as a caregiver.
Take some time to focus on yourself and find small things that make you feel good—a long bubble bath, yoga class with friends, or some extra whipped cream on your coffee. Taking care of yourself will not only help you discover more ways to be thankful, but it will make sure that you’re refreshed and rejuvenated to be the best caregiver you can be.
Caring for a loved one can have its challenges, but it’s also full of wonderful moments and times to be thankful. By following these strategies for practicing gratitude, you’ll find that there is good in every day. You’ll also find that when you are overflowing with gratitude, you have more to give to others—allowing you to be a happier person and, ultimately, a stronger caregiver.
For more tips on caregiving and more, we encourage you to visit our Woodland Ridge blog!