A lot of us are worrying about the novel coronavirus.
Even if you are not actively worrying, it’s likely that your day-to-day life is being impacted by it – you may not be able to engage in the things you enjoy or find meaningful.
During these times, we could all use a little mental health boost.
When you are suddenly restricted from things, it can help you realize what you truly value. Maybe you enjoy work or school a lot more than you realize, and you’d be happy to be there instead of at home. Maybe COVID-19 has made you think of giving your grandparents a call or supporting local businesses.
Once social distancing has lifted, we may find ourselves more socially engaged, thoughtful toward others, and eager to engage in enjoyable activities.
The practice of gratitude is associated with improved mood and enhanced physical health.
Researchers Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough define gratitude as the recognition that something positive has happened to you because of someone else’s actions. Gratitude is a component of many religious and spiritual practices, and it can be converted to an exercise to enhance mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
One simple gratitude exercise involves just taking a few minutes per day to reflect on 5 things you are grateful for. These might be of major importance (e.g., your family) or more mundane (e.g., receiving a letter in the mail).
If I were to do this exercise, here’s what I would list:
- I am grateful to be in a helping profession and able to assist people with their mental health through the pandemic.
- I am grateful for the medical professionals and service workers who are tirelessly working to help the rest of us.
- I am grateful that I do not have to worry if I will have enough food and that I am able to help provide for those who do have that concern.
- I am grateful to have a safe apartment to stay in while I am spending more time at home.
- I am grateful for the scent of my new candle as I write this post.
Gratitude is just one component of overall mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, our mental health is also impacted by larger governmental and business policies, not just our own use of coping skills. Still, I hope you will find the practice of gratitude helpful in improving your well-being over the next few weeks.