Gratitude in a Time of Pandemic

Gratitude can be a powerful tool for resilience in the face of COVID-19.

Posted Mar 25, 2020

As we sit in our apartments or in hospital beds during this pandemic, there are things we can do to improve our outcomes and maintain health. The last post gave some tips for staying healthy during this time, and this post will elaborate on one of the most powerful tools for staying healthy, gratitude

There are always things to be grateful for (even now), and gratitude reminds us how special, beautiful and fortunate our lives are, even under stressful or hazardous conditions.

As we navigate this quarantine and epidemic, I call for you to think of 3 things you are grateful for upon waking and going to sleep every day.

At first it will probably be difficult to call to mind things that you can appreciate as everything may seem dire, so here are some suggestions to help you get started;

  • The fact that a pandemic like this is unusual. The infrastructure we have built prevents global threats to health like this one, and allows us to prevent the impact of such. We are lucky that there are researchers who have devoted their lives to preventing and addressing pandemics like this one, and furthermore that the scientific community collaborates and drops their current work to come together and solve issues like this when they arise.
  • Gratitude for the heros of healthcare who put their own safety at risk to care for total strangers simply because it is what they do.
  • Gratitude for loved ones and a time of forced perspective, to consider what really matters to us.

How are you feeling after reading these reasons to be grateful? Please share your feelings in the comment section below.

You owe three reasons of your own to be grateful today before bed. As you practice this, the things you are grateful for will become more specific to your own life. If you struggle, think outside the box. It does not matter how long your brain takes to land on the things you are grateful for, only that you focus your mind on gratitude.

Gratitude practice is not only important for making you feel better psychologically during this crisis, it can also help your physical health in response to respiratory infection and in general (especially in older adults who are in a higher risk category for COVID-19).

Keep Calm and Carry On. During World War Two (a different existential threat to our wellbeing) the English people were told to "Keep Calm and Carry On." Though this is now a meme and fodder for kitschy t-shirts, the wisdom behind this statement is as true as it ever was. Limiting worry about COVID-19 may actually improve your outcome should you contract it.

Keep calm and carry on. We will get through this. Life will return to normal. It may be a new kind of normal, but this will all be a memory one day.

Finally, it is important to focus on the silver lining of this situation.

We have been living in a bubble. We have lost touch with neighbors, gotten image-obsessed, fallen into depression as consumerism has become our religion.

Crisis brings out the best in people. Crisis reminds us why it is important to celebrate every day and share our love with family, neighbors, and friends. Crisis reminds us of how lucky we are and how important it is to take care of ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

As we weather this crisis let us be fortunate enough to remember the lessons that it has to teach us so that we can continue to strive towards a better tomorrow.

References

Bonanno, G. A., Ho, S. M., Chan, J. C., Kwong, R. S., Cheung, C. K., Wong, C. P., & Wong, V. C. (2008). Psychological resilience and dysfunction among hospitalized survivors of the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong: a latent class approach. Health Psychology, 27(5), 659.

Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and individual differences, 54(1), 92-96.

Jans-Beken, L., Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L., & Lataster, J. (2019). Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-40.

O'Connell, B. H., O'Shea, D., & Gallagher, S. (2016). Mediating effects of loneliness on the gratitude-health link. Personality and Individual Differences, 98, 179-183.

O’Connell, B. H., & Killeen-Byrt, M. (2018). Psychosocial health mediates the gratitude-physical health link. Psychology, health & medicine, 23(9), 1145-1150.

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (‎ COVID-19)‎: situation report, 49.

Zhou, F., Yu, T., Du, R., Fan, G., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., ... & Guan, L. (2020). Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. The Lancet.