Giving Thanks: gratitude during Covid-19
If someone asked whether 2020 has been one of the most difficult of your life, and you answered “yes,” you certainly would not be alone. If you were then asked to list ten things that you are thankful for, perhaps this would prove a bit challenging—again, you would not be alone.
Although it is not an official holiday in the UK, Thanksgiving (which this year falls on 26 November) is a good reminder of both the importance and benefits of giving thanks—especially during times of crisis.
As the UK continues lockdown, finding reasons to be grateful and methods of expressing them are likely to be even more difficult. Let me guide you through how gratitude improves our wellbeing and physical health, and suggest some simple and meaningful ways to share gratitude with those who need it most during this covid-19 crisis.
Develop an “attitude of gratitude”
As mentioned in my recent post “How to stay positive through the Lockdown slump,” I’ve written extensively about the mental health benefits of gratitude. But why is developing an “attitude of gratitude” one of the most effective methods for reducing pandemic-related stress and anxiety?
Consider for a few moments the emotional and physical assets that you think are necessary to manage the Covid-19 pandemic with a positive approach. What are the emotional and physical resources in your crisis survival kit?
I think it’s safe to guess that most of you listed a sense of optimism, resilience, strong social connections, good communication, a good night’s sleep and a healthy body as some of the crucial factors in navigating not just this covid crisis, but any crisis.
But did you know that practicing gratitude improves all these areas?
“So shines a good deed in a weary world”
“Over the past 15 years, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude,” according to Greater Good Magazine. These benefits include increased happiness, reduced anxiety and depression, a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, and even better sleep. “If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep,” the article reads.
When we practice gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives. According to Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat journal, in the process of practicing gratitude, “people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
To put it in the simplest terms: “We’re happier when we’re grateful.” Writing in the Harvard Business Review, global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz said that during a crisis, “taking the time to thank others is vital to dampen loneliness, amp up social connections, and generate generosity.”
Shakespeare too recognised the value of showing gratitude in challenging times; as he wrote in The Merchant of Venice (and as Roald Dahl paraphrased in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), “so shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Charitable activities are the “glue” that keeps communities together
Much like the ’Clap for Carers’ movement earlier in the year, which grew into a UK-wide expression of gratitude to key workers, something as simple as communal applause can have significant benefits. As the BBC reported, the clap is credited with bringing neighbours together and creating a sense of community spirit.
What are some other simple ways of expressing gratitude to those who need it most?
In the UK, Covid-19 has led to the phenomenon of “the newly hungry”, as the pandemic has pushed the cost-of-living crisis further up the income scale, The Guardian reports.
As the new lockdown begins, Feeding Britain’s network of charities is anticipating a further increase in the volume of food aid required. Donating food aid to one of the UK’s 2000+ food banks, or getting involved in one of Feeding Britain’s regional projects, is a great way of connecting to some of the most vulnerable members of your community.
Back in June The Guardian reported that one in ten UK charities are facing bankruptcy by the end of this year, due to the enormous increase in demand for their services and severe decrease in fundraising income. Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of Charity Finance Group, told the Yorkshire Post that charitable activities and organisations were the “glue” that keeps communities together. So, choose a charity close to your heart and find out how you can help them.
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”
As many across the US are making the difficult decision to refrain from the usual Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, some are opting to send food to them instead. But it’s not just their nearest and dearest that they’re sending care packages to — workers on the frontline of Covid-19 containment efforts are also in their thoughts.
Key workers are all around us; along with medical personnel, they include cleaners, supermarket workers, bus drivers, delivery staff. If you’ve been indulging in a bit of “stress baking” during the pandemic, or spending more time in the kitchen since the new lockdown began, a good old fashioned way of showing an essential worker you care is by surprising them with something homemade.
Or perhaps you know someone who is facing extra challenges during this time? A great place to begin is by listing five people you know who might need a little extra help handling lockdown. It could be an essential worker, your child’s teacher, a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while or an elderly neighbour. Now think of something simple to do for each of them. In the words of the Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
Pay it Forward
Are you familiar with the concept of “pay it forward”? When we receive something, such as a gift or an act of kindness, we normally thank the person who gave it to us and usually try to repay back their generosity. When we “pay it forward” however, we extend that generosity to someone else. Next time someone does something nice for you, or gives you something, try to immediately think of someone else you can pay that kindness forward to.
Another simple method of “paying it forward” is every time you purchase something new, such as a new item of clothing or new kitchen appliance, donate an item to charity. In this sense what you are “paying forward” is your ability to purchase new items; especially in difficult times such as these, your “trash” may be someone else’s “treasure”.
Thanksgiving for kids
If you have children, Thanksgiving is a great time to teach them how to cultivate gratitude.
Dr Andrea Hussong, director of the Center for Developmental Science and a professor of psychology, says “finding ways to help children more deeply notice what they have received is an important place to start. But helping them make sense of those gifts, through their thoughts and feelings, may be key to experiences of gratitude more specifically.”
You can watch Dr Andrea Hussong explore the role that parents can play in fostering the development of children’s gratitude here.
As practising gratitude has so many wellbeing benefits, cultivating thankfulness is one of the important areas on which we should focus all year round.
Enjoy in good health…
Since gratitude is so valuable for our overall wellbeing, it’s also something that wellbeing coaches focus on with their clients.
If you would like some personal wellbeing help, our renowned, Dr Claire Maguire, is available for private 1:1 coaching by phone, Zoom or Skype. Together you create your vision for your future:
“I coach intuitively which means I laser into what it is that you most need. Hence we progress quickly and positively together. I help instill motivation, encouragement and accountability on your journey.”
As the demand for mental wellbeing and emotional health is growing quickly, it’s an opportune time to get involved and become a Wellbeing Coach.