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This World Gratitude Day, Lecturer of Psychology, Olivia Goncalves explains what gratitude means, how it can improve your mental wellbeing and how we can continue to feel gratitude during COVID-19.  

Person in field watching the sunset

Gratitude is an emotion that occurs in response to receiving something of value or an act of generosity from another. Studies suggest that expressing and experiencing gratitude can contribute to our wellbeing.

There are different ways of practicing gratitude, from writing about what we are grateful for on a regular basis to saying ‘thank you’. A good way to practice gratitude is to notice the good things in your life. For example, each week, one can think of and write down a couple of things they are grateful for. People can also express gratitude by showing appreciation to someone, by saying something nice, telling people what they mean to them or writing someone a gratitude note. Gratitude can help us become more optimistic and expressing it with people we care about or those who have done something nice, appreciated, or unexpected can help us connect with others and have a positive impact on them.  Studies have shown that those who have a greater level of gratitude tend to have a greater level of personal happiness.

It is difficult to say. For some people this COVID19 pandemic has put situations into perspective and their levels of gratitude has gone up, which has allowed them to focus on what they appreciate and what brings them joy. Many people have come to feel grateful for having their health, having their family, or having a job.

Others may feel that they have less to be grateful for during this time because of the experiences that it has brought to them and the possible impacts the pandemic has had on their lives.  Those who have lost their jobs, suffered with disease, or lost someone close to them are likely struggling to find anything to feel grateful for in the situation.  It takes tremendous strength to remain grateful in times of suffering or loss, however it has been shown that maintaining a feeling of gratitude for that which one still has makes dealing with adverse situations easier.

It is possible that some feel more grateful through this pandemic because they notice the good things about their life and more so in the midst of the COVID-19. When they compare their experiences with others, it can make them realise that they are most fortunate to have their health, to have not lost anyone close, and to still have employment, for example.  In these cases, a great sense of wellbeing can be achieved by focusing on how fortunate one has been.

On the other hand, if people have lost their jobs, have been infected by the virus, or are uncertain about their future for example, they may not feel that there is anything they can be grateful for or it may be difficult for them to feel that they can express gratitude.  In these situations, it is even more important to think of things about which one can be grateful to build emotional resilience and appreciate the aspects of life we often take for granted.

Photo credit from Unsplash @hudsoncrafted