Presidential Column

Gratitude

By Annette M. La Greca, Ph.D., ABPP


Fall is in full swing, and the holiday season is right around the corner (or has already arrived judging from many retail stores!). As we approach the holidays and reflect on the past year, this is the perfect time to ask: What are you grateful for?

Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for youth and adults. And it is still ongoing. Many have experienced the loss of a loved one or of economic, food, or housing security. All of us have encountered significant life disruption and uncertainty. Not surprisingly, data indicate that many youth and adults report elevated levels of stress and other mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression. In my previous column, I focused on prevention strategies that psychologists might use to address stress and mental health issues (resulting from disasters and also from the pandemic) that may be affecting so many individuals. Today, I’d like to focus on another beneficial concept – recognizing and expressing gratitude.

Gratitude is making a conscious effort to count one’s blessings – and to express appreciation for what one has. Gratitude is something that can be cultivated, and evidence indicates that practicing gratitude can increase happiness and promote better physical and mental health. Gratitude exercises might include keeping a diary in which one expresses gratitude for people and things in their lives and then shares these expressions of gratitude on a regular basis. For inspiration, there are various websites that provide examples of how to identify things to be grateful for.

In keeping with the gratitude spirit, I’d like to share a few things that I am grateful for this year. One is the opportunity I’ve had to serve as President of the Society of Clinical Psychology (SCP). It has been a privilege to work with and get to know the many, many individuals who work enthusiastically and diligently on behalf of SCP. This includes (but is not limited to) our current Officers (Elizabeth Yeater, Kalyani Gopal, Paul Arbisi, Chad Kelland); our Council Reps (Kim Penberthy, Michael Otto, Kathryn McHugh, Jonathan Weinand) and Member at Large (Randy Salekin) as well as the many Section Representatives to the SCP Board. It also includes the editors of our journal (Art Nezu), newsletter (Shannon Sauer-Zavala), and website (Damion Grasso) as well as those who chair and participate in SCP’s various committees (such as Membership, Education and Training, Science and Practice) and the Diversity Task Force. Finally, a special call out of gratitude and thanks goes to Tara Craighead, our Director of Operations, who somehow manages to keep us all on target and making progress, even in a challenging pandemic-affected year.

I am also grateful for the presence and support of my family and friends. Although it has not been possible to see those who live at a distance, the availability of Zoom, Facetime, and other online platforms has made it possible to have routine happy hours, movie nights, and even heart-to-heart chats with those I care about – including those who live on the other side of the world. The social connectedness that technology affords has been a life saver in this era of social distancing and restricted travel, generally helping to reduce loneliness and increase social support. (Relatedly, I’m grateful that I have the skills and equipment needed to engage in online social connections, which is not the case for many individuals.) Still, I do look forward to returning to more frequent in-person contacts.

Finally, I’m grateful that we are now making the seasonal transition to autumn. Since I’m living in South Florida, this doesn’t mean crisp days with spectacular fall foliage, like those that graced my childhood in New York and my graduate work in Indiana. Instead, it means that the weather is less incredibly humid and rainy; that overnight and in the morning it may “cool down” to 70 degrees, making outdoor activities more appealing; and that we are almost out of hurricane season (yeah!). And you can be grateful that I won’t remind you of this weather when you are experiencing snow and ice storms up north this winter!

Now that I shared some of my gratitude, perhaps you can do the same. What are you grateful for today?

If you would like to get started on gratitude sharing, click on this link!

We will share your anonymous replies in 2022!

Annette M. La Greca, PhD, ABPP

alagreca@miami.edu