Our struggle with gratitude in the face of the pandemic

This year’s Easter is a special holiday because we are still under the restrictions for social distancing due to the pandemic.  Indeed, we may also look forward to the gradual release of the restrictions after Easter and prepare ourselves to resume social gatherings and normal activities, such as resuming to go to the gym or go for a massage.  For those who had gone through some hardships in relation to the impact of the pandemic, it may be a bit difficult for ones to feel grateful for what ones still have in life.  For some other people, the beautiful weather in recent days may already activate their feeling of gratitude as they can go out for outdoor activities despite the social distancing restrictions.  Why are we struggling to feel grateful in the face of adversities and challenges?  What is the benefits of feeling grateful in the midst of turmoils?

When we face adversities or challenges as in this 5th wave of the pandemic, we habitually focus on the negatives and on our threats.  In fact, we are hardwired to focus on the negative aspects first and weight more heavily on the negative perspective than the positive.  This is due to our evolutionary development that our fellow human counterparts cannot risk their lives if they face a possible threats of encountering with a violent animal.  Therefore, they need to be very vigilant for any minor signs of possible threats in their environment.  On the contrary, we adapt to the positive things happened in our lives and tended to forget them because it does not signal a threat for us to pay attention to.  Indeed, we may easily take for granted at the sunny blue sky and fresh dry breeze in spring while we are worrying about the impact of the pandemic on us.

In the midst of turmoils, such as facing the possibility of being laid off in the 5th wave of the pandemic, our feeling of gratitude can help us to maintain a more positive attitude to face our challenge and cultivate a positive emotional state to give us strength to overcome our difficulties.  This may motivate us to work harder on our job search activities or reaching out to our contacts for possible career opportunities.  In fact, research showed that gratitude promotes prosocial behaviors and improves our social bonding with our family members and our friends.  For instance, when we felt grateful for our friends’ caring messages during the pandemic, we may initiate more social gatherings with them and care about their well-being more in reciprocity.  As a result, we our social bonding with our family members and friends strengthened due to our feeling and expression of gratitude.

According to Tayyab Rashid, a psychologist specialized in positive psychology, we can cultivate gratitude in our daily living in some small actions.  For instance, we can select one small but important thing in our lives each day and be mindful of this little thing in the future.  When I wrote this article today, I was being mindful of the special stitches woven in my cardigan.  I felt grateful for having this beautifully made cardigan and was preparing to appreciate this more in the future.  Another way to feel and show gratitude is to express our thanks in a more specific way instead of just saying “thanks” or typing “thanks” in our text messages.  We may try to be more specific and descriptive in our expression of our gratitude to others.  For example, we may express our “thanks” to the speaker we invited for an event by describing how we appreciated his or her speech, such as her case examples or her detailed description in the theories, etc.  We may also think of all the people who had contributed to the making of our food we are eating in our meals during eating.  By doing this regularly, we will feel more grateful for our food on our table, no matter how simple the food is.

It is beyond dispute that feeling and expressing gratitude is more difficult in the face of the adversities and challenges in the 5th wave of the pandemic.  As increasing our gratitude has positive impact on our health and relationships, let us learn how to cultivate our gratitude in this Easter holiday and beyond.

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