Gratitude in the Time of COVID – Dr. Getzelman’s Reflections on the Last Year

I feel more rooted now than ever, more resilient. It may come as a surprise to many of you that I suffered from anxiety much of my adult life, in spite of the fact that people have long seen me as calm, cool and collected. My journey to finding my peace has been gradual—actually, it spanned several decades. During this last year, as challenging (and at times frightening) as it’s been, I have discovered a greater sense of my own gravity and my feet are more planted than ever as a result of my gratitude practice. I am grateful for so many things: my health, the beauty around me, my supportive husband, and GetzWell’s valued role in the community which gives significant meaning to my life. More than a year of consistently practicing gratitude means I was able to make this list pretty effortlessly.

While recently taking stock of the last 13 months, I was reminded that in December 2019 I wrote to you about my personal commitment to a consistent gratitude practice in the coming year. At that time, I said I was incredibly thankful to GetzWell’s families who, since its inception in 2007, have believed in our personalized medicine approach. I wrote, “The choices we each make to support our own health and the health of our children matter not only to us as individuals, but can impact our world and future generations in meaningful ways.” I recall feeling open and full, and I was curious how a consistent gratitude practice might further enhance my life.

My plan started by taking the advice of Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who suggested taking 2 minutes daily (for 21 days) to compose a text to tell someone in your life why you appreciate them. This turned out to be incredibly gratifying, filling me AND the recipient with warm fuzzies that lingered long after hitting send. This was such a simple and impactful tool, a definite win-win.

I also decided to acknowledge three things at the close of each day for which I was thankful. I figured I’d occasionally run into minor hiccups that come with a new personal growth practice, an “Oops! It’s Thursday and I forgot to note the three things I was grateful for on Tuesday and Wednesday,” kind of thing. But, I did not anticipate any of what 2020 and the first part of this year had in store or how the events of the past year might test my commitment, inspire growth, or both.

I had promised to share the results of my practice with you over the coming months. But as we all experienced, those months became overwhelmed by all things COVID. A year later, as our world is beginning to shift again, I want to recount what I’ve learned from my gratitude practice. [Fortunately, in that same period, vaccines have been developed (in record time, I might add!), business restrictions are beginning to loosen, and there’s a shared sense that, as promised, this pandemic won’t last forever.]

Every night (well, almost) before falling asleep, I have given thanks. It’s not a prayer exactly, but rather an acknowledgement of the magic in the universe and a recognition of the blessings in my life. As long as I let myself notice and acknowledge even the smallest things, it is pretty easy to fulfill my goal. For example, I have given thanks for: the green-breasted hummingbirds outside my window delighting me as I work, the cool air entering through the bedroom window as I relax into sleep (Karl the Fog, are you back?), that silly TikTok video that had me cracking up earlier in the day, my discovery of the Outlander series (and feeling  compelled to perfect my Scottish brogue—I LOVE accents), which provided a new and surprisingly satisfying evening ritual. (I’d barely watched TV beyond my teens and didn’t know, or “didnae ken,” I would enjoy it so much!)

Thanks to my gratitude practice, I have a deeper trust that things work out. More than that, I know that even if things don’t seem to make sense on the surface, there’s always a kernel of truth or something to learn from those instances. I have gained more equanimity. In addition, my self compassion has grown, and with it, my compassion for others. 

For all these reasons, after more than a year of this practice, I can tell you there’s no way I’m giving it up. A regular “diet” of gratitude has allowed me to deepen my awareness of the many gifts around me and, like any habit, it has become more and more automatic. By now it’s part of my basic nourishment. Still not convinced? You might be intrigued to read this white paper: The Science of Gratitude.

A gratitude practice can take many forms. I happened to find experts whose messages resonated with me and experimented with their suggestions. As I mentioned, Sean Achor was one, Liz Gilbert, Alice Walker and LIght Watkins were others (several of whom I discovered via the Calm app’s masterclasses, by the way). 

With children, one fun and easy way to share a gratitude practice is to take a minute or two at bedtime to share your “Rose, Bud, and Thorn” for the day. A rose is something you loved about your day, a bud is something you’re looking forward to tomorrow, and a thorn is something that was, well, thorny—anything that you didn’t like. This powerful little conversation can bring so much connection, awareness, and gratitude.

I’d love to begin a dialogue or hear from you about what has provided a sense of grounding or support for you this year. Feel free to chime in on our Instagram page or email me directly. Sharing these kinds of positive experiences is not only beneficial, but it also creates its own kind of joy.  

At GetzWell, we’re here to support new parents through every stage of a child’s development, even virtually. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need us!

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