NOTE: Farm Bureau is in the fight against farm stress and the too-long-overlooked challenges to farmers’ mental health. We’re sharing resources with every available audience because you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to help someone through a tough spot.
By Becca Gulliver
Picture a hot air balloon floating through the air. It gradually descends until lifting back up as the pilot hits the burner to continue the journey. We all need occasional refilling to stay aloft, right?
Farming took a toll in 2019 and 2020 is just making up dumb new rules as it goes along. Between depressed markets, disasters and a global pandemic, we don’t know what’ll come next and that can be pretty deflating. As individuals, how do we take control of what we can to refill or recharge as the stress, depression and chaos sets in?
One option is practicing daily gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Integrating gratitude as a common practice helps create a healthy mindset and contain negativity that creeps in during times of uncertainty. It helps us find the good and boost physical health and sleep; increases empathy; eases social connection; enhances self-esteem; strengthens mental health and reduces aggression.
But how do we integrate gratitude as a common practice, and help others do the same? First, break it into four parts: physical, mental, social and spiritual.
MENTAL — How do you show yourself gratitude? Practicing gratitude helps you turn desired behaviors into good habits. Consider keeping a gratitude journal, noting (on paper or in your smartphone) specific little things you’re grateful for whenever they occur to you. Maybe file them away or keep them in a jar until a milestone like your birthday or a holiday when you can reflect on all you’ve been grateful for since you started. Pick out one field stone for its shape or color and put it where you’ll see it often — as a regular reminder to stop and think about one little thing you’re grateful for. Start with yourself and you’ll build a solid foundation for expressing gratitude toward others.
SOCIAL — How do you show your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues that you’re thankful for them? Whether written down or spoken, sharing affirmations with our peers helps build a healthier mindset: Thanks for putting the impact drill back where you found it… Thanks for covering Ben’s milking shift... You relax — I got the dishes… Expressing thanks and acknowledging others’ efforts helps you both out. And it’s contagious, so lean toward those who demonstrate gratitude toward you.
PHYSICAL — Farming is hard work, so maintaining your physical health and wellbeing is vital to your success, and nothing lifts spirits like success! Be realistic and work within your limits — let your equipment work for you in taming the land, and if some tasks are beyond you, let others take them and be thankful they’re off your list! Take advantage of resources designed to help you adapt and maximize your abilities. AgrAbility exists to implement on-farm modifications that will keep you in the action as long as possible. Accepting limitations without dwelling on them is key to maintaining a healthy mindset and putting one foot in front of the other.
SPIRITUAL — Extending grace to yourself and others helps us all keep a healthy perspective on our many blessings. This fourth component ties a bow on all that’s come before it. Take time to reflect on a brief walk or try deep breathing or meditation: