Asking “what are you thankful for?” during a global pandemic might seem absurd. Every day the news gets grimmer. We hear sirens outside our windows. We read stories of hospitals stretched to capacity. Loved ones are sick. We can’t leave our homes. Finding things to be grateful for right now might seem impossible. But studies show the healing power of gratitude. Feeling and expressing thanks can improve our well-being. What’s more important during the COVID-19 pandemic than that?

Spend a few minutes every day writing a list of reasons why you are grateful. For example: I am grateful for my health and for my family’s health. I am grateful for the nurses and doctors working hard to save lives. I am grateful for the love I have in my life. I am grateful the sun is shining today. I also recommend reading, listening, or watching things you find uplifting. What brightens my day are the videos of neighbors in Spain and Italy making music from their balconies, and puppies exploring an aquarium.

If you’re feeling afraid right now, that’s OK. Anxiety can harm our emotional health, but sometimes it’s necessary, and a little bit of fear can be beneficial. Anxiety tells us that we need to be alert. And we do need to be alert right now. When we leave our homes, we need to remember to put six feet of space between other people and ourselves, not to touch our faces, and to wash our hands frequently. A little watchfulness right now is fine as long as it doesn’t overwhelm us.

We’ve known for a long time about the connection between mental and physical health. As we try to prevent ourselves from getting sick or speed up our recovery, it is helpful to boost our mental well-being. If you are feeling depressed or if your anxiety has gone beyond “alert” and become all-consuming, there are a few simple things you can do to help improve your well-being, and they all involve gratitude.

 

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