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With COVID’s impact lingering for at least nine months now, many are experiencing fatigue, tragic loss, disheartened mood, and other overwhelming feelings. It has not been easy, and such difficult emotions ought to be acknowledged inside ourselves. In fact, as part of the World Health Organization’s strategy to address pandemic fatigue, public health experts collectively state we must “acknowledge and address the hardship people experience, and the profound impact the pandemic has had on their lives.”
Importantly, it is now in the thick of things that gratitude can lift our spirits or connect us to the present moments that we can still appreciate. Leading gratitude researcher Dr. Robert Emmons describes a positive response to hardship when he says, “crisis can make us more grateful—but research says gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall.”
Building in this “cushion” means summoning that which we can be grateful for despite a most trying year.
What is there to be grateful for in 2020?
Reviewing the year might be draining, outright exhausting. The year may have been devastating, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. Others may have lost their livelihoods, lost access to food or insurance, or aren’t breathing as comfortably as they once did. If you’ve been directly affected, it might be especially trying to discover what to be grateful for this year.
The silver linings can multiply, if one tries to find, looks, and sees them. Here are seven things to be grateful for this year, hopefully for all of us:
1. The connection with another human being. Indeed, in the midst of COVID, the connection with one another kicks in by default because we are all affected by the pandemic. As the poet Saadi states:
“Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain.”
Saadi’s words reflect a palpable bond that connects each of us with one another. In 2020, the year of COVID, we can be grateful for this special bond.
2. One breath in, one breath out. Again, with each breath in and each breath out, life continues. As the poet Saadi reflects on these two blessings reflecting life’s continuation in man, he claims we cannot be grateful enough. To say thanks for each breath in, each breath out is impossible for man. In the year of COVID, many affected are not able to breathe as easily. However, for those able to still continue living, we can be ever grateful for these two constant gifts.
3. You can digest food. For those whose lives continue, the ability to take in nutrients and water is something to be grateful for. The ability to digest your food is a function of our bodies most of us take for granted. Yet, in the year of COVID, it is a great gift to be able to digest and hopefully for more, enjoy food.
4. You are able to get some sleep or rest. Without sleep, the body fails to perform its basic functions. The ability to sleep is something to be especially grateful for as our bodies continue to weather the pandemic.
5. You are able to grow as a person. This year, while many have lost jobs, businesses, and paychecks have been cut, it is especially hard to find ways to stay resilient. Yet, the biggest gift inside each human being is the ability to gain wisdom. Despite infection, physical limitations, or other ailments, humans are by their innate nature able to grow from experiences. This year, our ability to stay resilient and grow as human beings is something to hopefully be grateful for.
6. Gratitude for frontline workers. The dedication and perseverance of frontline workers is to be admired and appreciated by all. Grocery store workers, healthcare professionals, delivery personnel, first responders, caregivers, public health professionals, and more are most deserving of our respect and gratitude. Without them, daily living would be much more complicated and seemingly impossible. Thank you.
7. Gratitude for a vaccine. While most of us will not receive a vaccine until next year, we can still appreciate the discovery of one in 2020. Advancements in science enabling such a development are unprecedented. The achievements of COVID vaccines are worthy of our gratitude for the preservation of societies worldwide.
COVID has brought challenge after challenge, seemingly ongoing. Still, we can be grateful for these seven things. What are you grateful for in 2020?