There’s not a corner of our mental and physical landscapes that the pandemic has left untouched. If we were to do a word cloud, we’d see anxiety, fear, loneliness, helplessness and exhaustion all over it. Thousands of lives lost, lakhs of livelihoods turned upside down and the uncertainty of not knowing when we will see a vaccine or a pandemic-free dawn — in such unprecedented times, what role has gratitude come to play?
Gratitude and Well-being?
Well for one, there is a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being. And so is the multi-dimensional connection between gratitude and happiness. Expressing gratitude not only to others but also to ourselves, induces positive emotions, primarily happiness. By producing feelings of pleasure and contentment, gratitude impacts on our overall health and well-being as well.
Just how panic and stress leads to inflammation in the body, which in turn, can compromise the immune system, practicing gratitude can help reduce our stress and help us be relatively more immune.
The Science Behind It
People who express and feel gratitude have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (Zahn et al, 2014).
Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva, a well-known meditation training site, mentioned in one of her publications that gratitude as a ‘natural antidepressant’. The effects of gratitude, when practiced daily can be almost the same as medications. It produces a feeling of long-lasting happiness and contentment, the physiological basis of which lies at the neurotransmitter level.
When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves
So Why does Gratitude so Often Elude Us?
For starters, most of us get a bigger kick out of being miserable than we realize. It’s human nature to obsess on things that are broken while barely glancing at all that’s working. Wasn’t griping about being banned from restaurants and bars more fun than noting culinary skills we honed and gas and money we saved?
For a lot of us, it might also seem difficult to practice gratitude during a sobering global health crisis which brings me to what many of us see as a huge block to gratitude: It seems wrong, celebrating what's good in your life when so many are suffering. Daily, we absorb news reports, disturbing stories and heartbreaking human and economic losses. These harsh realities dampen the impulse to point out, even to ourselves, our blessings.
But human life is always uncertain. We forget how often and how unexpectedly even horrific losses morph into equally unforeseen abundance. Wallowing in depression over other people’s pain does nothing to help them or you. Numerous spiritual teachings suggest that focusing on the good in your life creates more abundance. So if you can assist someone in need, offer a delivery person or retail worker a generous tip, or contribute money or time to organisations helping the hard-hit, do it — and feel grateful for being blessed to be able to help. Empathy for others doesn’t require turning your back on gifts that could lift you now.
With all the change happening in the world daily, we want to encourage you to shift your perspective to find gratitude. It may not be your first instinct, but by actively working on it, we know we can find the good!
So, what are you grateful for? :)