During this time of coronavirus, you may have seen on your friend’s Facebook this 30-day “gratitude challenge”: Listing 3 things each day that he or she is thankful for 30 days consecutively. At first glance, you may think that this is a futile exercise, but during this unprecedented period that we are going through, practising gratitude may actually be a useful exercise for our mental health.
With many people leading vastly different lives due to the various levels of lockdown compared to the pre-coronavirus time, there has been a growing interest in advice or tips to improve mental health as more people are living in isolation.
Practising gratitude, whether on social media or simply done quietly in one’s mind, has been shown to help with controlling the stress and anxiety level. It helps people to ponder more deeply and rationalise the difficult situation they are in. This results in a more positive response. For instance, showing gratitude means people do not see their own achievement as totally a result of their own effort; conversely, when things do not go as planned, people will also be less critical of themselves as they start to appreciate of the little things that went smoothly.
Another example is that during the lockdown, many people spend more time with their family members at home. By expressing gratitude to their family members for their support, this results in family relationship growing stronger over time. Without this good practice, family members may squabble over many things as frequent contact in a confined area will inevitably lead to conflicts.
Grateful reflection help us not to be self-serving individuals – we do not think the world owes us a living. This results in more acts of kindness and deeper relationships are fostered. With countless frontline healthcare workers working tirelessly to control the coronavirus, there have been numerous stories of strangers expressing their appreciation through many kind hearted gestures.
There have been many unsettling news due to the pandemic. Staying positive and pretend that nothing drastic has happened is not easy. We can start with being more aware of the various little things and think beyond our four walls for things we can also be grateful for, for example, the worker who is busy disinfecting a mall where you use to visit frequently or the doctor who is testing your relative for possible infection.
It may be sometime before our lives resume normally, constantly practising gratitude can help to stay positive and improve our well being.