Gratitude takes guts. If the year 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that there’s a lot that can bring us down. Sometimes it takes more to find the good, the silver lining, the gifts.

In 2019, one of my team members had a rough year. Every few weeks, some new tragedy, crisis or health emergency had swept her and her family into a new level of pain, stress or grief. Eventually, each time, she would be able to find some humor and hope in each new challenge. She kept saying, “I’ll be glad when 2019 is over!” like a magic switch would go off. Then 2020 started…

Recently, she said, “Last year was so hard; I felt like our family was alone, but 2020 – well, we’ve all been in a hard place together. It feels less lonely.” It’s hard to be grateful in 2020, so you know when you feel less lonely during a pandemic lock-down, it’s huge!

Being grateful for health, for income, for time with family, for food on the table, for wifi – it all takes guts. As Author Brian Tracy writes, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

We haven’t had much control in 2020 of too many things. But we CAN control our attitudes about gratitude. That mindset is not only important to you; it’s important to the people around you too! It’s a small, inexpensive way to have a large, meaningful impact.

First, list your blessings. For me, it’s a roof over my head, friends and family that are healthy, being able to spend more time at home with my loved ones and my dog, going on stay-cations and seeing things I hadn’t made time for before, learning new habits, and patronizing more small, local businesses. Literally, write it down. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. I have a friend who recently took a hiatus from all social media, news and junk mail. She didn’t want to be stuck comparing her life, her body, her career, her home or her political views to anyone else. The result? Nearly instant gratitude and peace of mind!

Next, tell three friends or family how grateful you are for them. Be very specific. Be humble. An open, humble heart can find gratitude in the gifts of others easier. A friend of mine has a reminder on her calendar to tell her teenage daughter one thing she loves and is grateful for about her. Now, if you have a teenager, you know some days it really takes extra guts to show gratitude! But by verbalizing her gratitude, she’s setting a standard for her daughter while also having a meaningful future impact.

Extend gratitude to three random strangers. Gratitude is infectious. Pay it forward and make someone’s day. Put emphasis on your thank-you when dinner is delivered; thank the delivery person for braving the weather or traffic. Be specific when you thank the IT guy for fixing the bug before your next Zoom meeting. Give to a charity that moves you this holiday season – being grateful that you CAN give and humble that you are in a position to give. Making a stranger feel like their presence in your life at that moment is cause for celebration is creating impacts you will probably never know about!

Why do all this? Well, research at Berkley shows, “Gratitude helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall.”

Reframing the way you deal with 2020 and beyond helps you, and everyone around you. Re-setting your sails for an attitude of gratitude is hard work and isn’t easy. You have to intentionally look for the good – especially when in the midst of chaos.

I’ll say it again: Gratitude takes guts.