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Being Grateful and Finding Positivity as an Expat

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the globe, 2020 has been a difficult year. Expats in particular who’ve had to quarantine abroad have had a lot to deal with during these uncertain times. And for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, where the days are getting shorter, it is especially easy to fall into despair.

But even when things seem dark and desperate at first, there are always future experiences that can bring you happiness. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the time to reflect on all the things you can be thankful for this year.

The Need for Positivity

It might seem counterintuitive at first, or like a horrible cliché, but when times are rough, it is particularly important to focus on something positive. Your kids smiling at you, your dog playing in your backyard, or your neighbor sharing some vegetables from their garden might not seem important considering the state that the world is in. However, this is exactly the right time to get away from the bad news cycle.

When things are rough, as they are for many in 2020, the need for positivity is even greater than at other times. Expats may find it hard to grasp on to the positive things — as their family members live far away and they may find themselves in a country they are not completely familiar with yet. However, as an expat you are particularly lucky, being able to explore life abroad, and you’ll be able to find a lot of things that bring you joy. Maybe your new experiences will even help you figure out what to change in your life to make it even better!

Find Out What Is Important to You

Focusing on things to be grateful for is a good way to remind yourself what is (and isn’t) important in your life. Your family might get you through the tough times, your friends might provide the support you need, or maybe you have a creative outlet that has turned into a passion this year. Whatever it is that brought you joy in 2020, make sure to invest more time in it.

Figuring out what makes you happy and what you are grateful for can also help give you a new perspective. It might help you decide on changing your career path, making a move, or even staying exactly where you are. In any case, it’ll show you what to focus on in your life and what not to waste your energy on.

Gratefulness as an Anchor

You can find happiness in the little things! And looking for something to be grateful for every day can be an anchor, a lifeline, when times are tough. Focusing on the good things can help you regain some hope, let go of stress, and manage anxiety.

At the end of every day, write down two or three things that have been positive and made you happy. Maybe you made pancakes in the morning or the sun was shining, and you had the opportunity to take a nice walk outside. No matter how small, if something made you happy, you should write it down. Before you know it, you’ll have a long list of joyful moments to reflect on and to remind you that things are not as bad as they seem.

Get Together and Give Back

Thanksgiving is a great time of the year to reflect on all the good things in your life. And what could be better than sharing this with your friends. Even if you cannot be with your family, or if you don’t usually celebrate this holiday, what better occasion is there to get together with your friends? “Friendsgiving” has become a tradition of its own among those who cannot celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. It’s about creating your own traditions and sharing your favorite meals with people who make your life worthwhile. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t allow you to meet in person, you can still organize a virtual Friendsgiving.

The end of the year is also a great time to give back to your community and support those who are in need. Helping others can be very rewarding and can help you find a purpose at a time when you might just want to crawl back into bed. If you switch the focus away from your own worries and concentrate on supporting others, not only will it give you a sense of gratitude, but it will help you do some good too.

If you are looking for ideas on how to do this, you can read our article on how to support your community or you can join a local Changemakers Group to support a good cause.



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Francois Bertrand

"I found a former Helsinki expat who had recently moved back to Brazil, so we swapped all the important need-to-knows."

Sneha Gupta

"Absolutely recommendable: Not only did we find the best places to go out in HCMC, but also great people and expats to meet up with. "

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