The benefits of gratitude
As individuals and families across the country begin to acclimatise to the newly imposed restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic people are now seeking ways to cope with the significant and sudden change to routine and lifestyle. The world is simultaneously in panic and mourning; attempting to deal with and manage the uncertainty of what the future has in store, alongside the grief for a way life we once had that we know we are unlikely to ever go back to, and the thousands that have died as a result of the virus. At moments like this it can feel difficult to show gratitude. However reminding yourself daily of what you are grateful for, can have untold benefits especially in times like these.
There are various ways to protect oneself from the psychological effects of the pandemic; namely attempts to take attention away from the never ending news reports on the virus and to maintain as much of a routine as possible. However, one thing that is believed to be effective in reducing psychological and physical strain, is to practice gratitude as a way to focus on positive emotions to best integrate what has been lost; in terms of freedom of movement, our careers, financial loss, disruption in our social life and interaction our friends and family, and in the worst cases, the lives of loved ones.
While these losses are real and it is important to feel free (to) and unashamed to express these feelings of loss, it is also important and necessary to remember what we do have, what has not been lost, but in fact being appreciated, understood and therefore strengthened.
Research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. According to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky, gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Participants of the study experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
Did you also know that grateful people sleep better?
It can be difficult to know what to give gratitude for. But in all honesty, we can give our gratitude to anything we like; big or small. Below are several ideas about what we can be thankful for, at any point and even in times of crisis.
Gratitude for human compassion
The incredible generosity and kindness shown by individuals and organisations in this difficult, dark time is something to be grateful for. While we may have seen pictures of empty shelves and heard reports of panic buying and hoarding, the vast majority are condemning this behaviour and many more stories evidence many people going out of there way to help the elderly and vulnerable as they are forced into self-isolation to either avoid or contain the virus.
We were aware of the growing strain on social care and extreme loneliness elderly people faced as a result, but very rarely did many people act on it, until now. Those choosing to self-isolate who had busy social lives now have an enhanced understanding of how damaging this can be to emotional wellbeing and in response, the majority of the country are now taking action. Celebrities are donating large amounts of money such the South African billionaire Motsepe, who has pledged a donation of $57 million to fight the virus, or the 750000 British volunteers willing to support the NHS, alongside endless small random acts of kindness normal people are now offering to each other as a result of this crisis.
Gratitude for our friendships, relationships and family
As society became increasingly fragmented, image conscious and inward looking, it is a good time to remember how important it is to nurture our social connections, support networks and most importantly, public services. A new appreciation for workers in, what were previously believed to be, low skilled jobs are now being revered for their hard work and dedication to provide services to the public putting their own life at risk. Refuse workers won a campaign for full time sick pay for their staff, encouraging other key workers to demand recognition for the important role they play in society.
Gratitude for our infrastructure, health services and the promise of positive change
Gratitude can expand to the recognition of how incredibly unusual and nearly incomprehensible the crisis is. Many countries face lethal diseases without a fraction of the resources or support from government and public services, we are truly lucky to have governments that are able to afford to subsidise large percentages of wages and are continuing to work tirelessly to ensure people are not left without food or accommodation.
While we may be currently in the thick of the crisis, looking towards undoubtedly more weeks and even months of disruption to our routine, we are lucky to be assured that this is temporary and will come to an end eventually. Even though the pandemic may have lasting repercussions, we have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons. What and who are truly important, and to understand our value in society.
These things are worth considering, not only to protect our psychological wellbeing but also for the benefits that stress relief has on our physical health. Stress reduction has been proven to strengthen our immune systems and protect us from illnesses that typically occur as a result of burn-out and overworked nervous systems. Every night before we go to sleep and every morning we wake up, we could practice remembering at least three things that we are grateful for as an empowering orientation of our focus.
If you have a client, or know of someone who is struggling to find the right help for any form of mental health issue during this pandemic, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and out-patient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long lasting recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours)