Thanksgiving might feel a little different this year. With a global pandemic surging amidst economic and political unrest, it may be more challenging for all of us to tap into gratitude and hope. In addition, COVID-19 risk and restrictions will make gathering with family and loved ones more complicated.

Gratitude is an important emotion and mindset. It can benefit both physical and psychological health in a number of ways. Some of those benefits include better sleep, enhanced self esteem, lower blood pressure, and faster recovery from illness or injury.

However, practicing gratitude isn’t always easy, especially in the midst of uncertainty, tension or pain. Here are seven creative gratitude practices to share with your students or try yourself this Thanksgiving week.

  1. Spend 20 minutes journaling. Journaling has been shown to reduce stress, boost the immune system and improve feelings of gratitude.
  2. Try meditation. Through meditation we practice acceptance for what is. This can help remove resistance and complaints from the system and open our hearts to what is beautiful all around us.
  3. Make a gratitude list. An easy way to practice gratitude is to list out all of the things you are thankful for. These can be small or large, past or present things that bring us some amount of joy.
  4. Share with friends or family. Gratitude builds when it is shared. By sending an email, making a phone call, or talking to a loved one in person you have the opportunity to express gratitude to them and to help you both feel more love and joy.
  5. Write a letter to your past self. Self-appreciation is a powerful form of gratitude. Try writing a letter to your past self and thanking yourself for being strong and doing the best that you could at the time.
  6. Eat slowly. It’s natural to want to devour Thanksgiving dinner quickly, especially if you’ve been building your appetite all day. However, eating slower than usual and reflecting on the flavors in each bite can dramatically increase feelings of gratitude.
  7. Donate or volunteer. If you have experienced blessings such as time, energy and financial security this year, try giving back to those in need. Not only does this help improve someone else’s life, but it can help you prioritize your own life and feel more thankful.