The Gratitude Jar
(Part 5: In the Open blog series)
by Stephanie Pericich
There’s a repurposed tea container in our pantry that serves as our gratitude jar. It houses scraps of paper on which we’ve written things for which we are thankful. On New Year’s Eve, we empty the jar and take turns reading all of the notes. It’s a fun way to remember everything that we did as a family in the course of the year.
When Covid-19 struck, it became clear that our lives would dramatically change for the foreseeable future. I glanced over at the gratitude jar, wondering what the jar would contain at the end of the year. After all, our vacation had been cancelled, and so had all of the end of school year celebrations. Most of the summer activities that we take for granted would not take place in 2020. Looking ahead to the end of the year, I envisioned a sad little jar containing a few scraps of paper. My only hope was that one of the scraps of paper would read, “We stayed healthy.”
To say that Covid-19 has been detrimental to mental health is an understatement; Covid-19 magnifies the effects of depression and anxiety, and it exacerbates life’s challenges. It is difficult to think about gratitude in the midst of all of the physical and mental suffering caused by Covid-19. Yet gratitude is a vital part of resilience, and resilience is a vital part of mental health. We must find ways to reimagine gratitude, even during this trying time.
Rather than be wistful about the gratitude jar, I tried to fill it with the small, everyday things that make us happy, such as walks in nature, bike rides, flowers in bloom, caterpillars, and fledging birds. I also added another gratitude exercise to our repertoire: a challenge to recount three things for which we are grateful at the end of each day.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I have been reflecting on whether or not our exercises in gratitude have been effective. Although we have remained Covid-free, some things have gone horribly and unexpectedly wrong. There are plenty of days that we struggle to strike a balance between validating our emotions and focusing on gratitude. But I will say that on most nights, it is difficult for us to stop at just three thankful thoughts, and the gratitude jar in the pantry is overflowing. Next year, we will need a bigger jar.
Stephanie Pericich is a Parkway area wife, mother and an independent author of non-fiction and poetry. Ms. Pericich has volunteered to share her experiences and perspectives as a mother navigating the challenges of parenting for the purpose of encouraging community conversations about keeping kids safe and healthy.