At the very start of the pandemic, I looked forward to the projected two-week break from trying to balance school, homework, dance, and my job. It sounded like a brief getaway from all of my responsibilities to relax and collect myself, and a lot of others felt the same way. But as weeks turned into months and cases continued to climb, it got harder and harder to tell the days apart as it felt like I was reliving the same experience over and over again.
I’ve heard from so many of my friends that all they want is for things to go back to normal. Things like going to high school football games with hundreds of your classmates and moshing at concerts alongside thousands of strangers who’ve been exposed to god knows how much bacteria are all completely out of the question for as long as we can tell. Not only has it become more of a hazard to travel on vacations or for work, but it can be just as dangerous to go to the grocery store or reunite with your closest friends.
Safety regulations, restrictions, and cancelations have taken some of the most exciting things that my friends and I looked forward to away. Larger events like the Bumbershoot Festival, Harry Styles concert, and the TMG tour were all plans we made almost a year in advance that we don’t have anymore. I’ve spent the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and my birthday alone at home with my family, rather than visiting my grandmother as my family has on those days for the last seventeen years. Even my normal routine of physically going to school, dance, and work is a distant memory.
Earlier on, it was easier to try and find a silver lining and stay hopeful that things would soon go back to the way they were, and anything we missed we could make up for later. A lot of people made do with what they could and settled for drive-by birthday parades and parking lot hangouts. By now, some of those people have thrown caution to the wind for the sake of trying to maintain normalcy despite the risk, and others have eased into a routine that nine months ago would’ve made them a hermit. I, personally, am one of the latter.
So, for those like me, who have only a fraction of the social interaction they used to and feel like each day is bleeding into the next, how do we deal with the impact this pandemic has had on our emotional state? A lot of us have sunk into intense amounts of frustration, anger, depression, sadness, or just detachment from our feelings as we’ve adapted to a routine where we don’t get to do or see most of what used to make us happy. What can we do to stay as emotionally healthy as possible when it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for?
I remember that I used to keep a gratitude journal for a yoga class at my school where every day, I would write three things in the last 24 hours that I was thankful for, and three things in the next 24 hours that I looked forward to. I would often write that I would get to see my friends at lunch, or that we’d listen to music in art class, or that I’d had a good day at dance the night before. The point of the journal was to notice little things to be grateful for that you may’ve taken for granted, and it served its purpose exactly how it was supposed to. I had a much more positive outlook on the things that happened around me and looked forward to what every day had to offer. Even when I had a bad day, it let me recount what good there was to look back on.
It’s funny that the journal was for writing about things I took for granted, because now that I don’t get to do any of what I wrote about anymore, I can see that I really did take the little things for granted. That’s part of why it’s just so hard to find a reason to be thankful in this pandemic, because you realize that you don’t have some of the smallest things that used to be there, even on your worst days, to keep you grateful.
But gratitude is about recognizing and being thankful for what you have here and now, and what you’ve already experienced. If you try to find happiness by looking forward to what opportunities could possibly come in these times, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. Practicing conscious gratitude for whatever it is you still have is one of the best things you can do for yourself. If you’re not used to finding things you can be grateful for when it feels like there isn’t anything, there’s no time like the present to start.
If you have a roof over your head, that’s something to be grateful for. If you’ve had the chance to eat something today, that’s something to be grateful for. If you have clean water, if you have clothes on your back, if you have a bed to rest in, those are all things to be grateful for. Your body is constantly working to keep you safe and protected, and that’s something to be grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal for yourself and writing down what you’re grateful for will absolutely improve your outlook over time. You don’t have to convince yourself that these are the most amazing things in the world, but recognizing that you have something at all, no matter how small, is enough to make a change.
Lauren Asmussen is a senior in high school. She has been a dancer for about 5 years now, and is really into music. She loves to see how what’s happening online, in the media, and in the world keeps people entertained, as well as hearing what opinions people have to share.