Giving thanks during a pandemic: ‘We learn to appreciate things when we lose them’

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Joni Mitchell Very well written lyrics, but one line seems particularly fitting Thank you,

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In “Big Yellow Taxi” The singer/songwriter’s laughing 1970s tune—of trees, of healthy eating, about a love interest—is over and over again, “Doesn’t it always go away / That you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s Hasn’t gone.”

Michelle is challenging us not to take things lightly. There’s a wildly simple way to do this. This is called expressing gratitude.


Sure, this new era may sound tempting to the eye. But really, there’s never been a better time to be truly grateful than this holiday season, which comes as a result of a two-year global pandemic. In fact, we as a society are uniquely prepared to feel deeply grateful for our difficult times.

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If any analogy is apt, it is for those grappling with the Great Depression. That generation was so deeply faced with the hardships of the decade that it built up an enduring appreciation for the value of hard work and simple pleasures, both implied by mythological painting of norman rockwell,

“COVID-19 was about death,” says Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. “This recovery is all about gratitude for a new sense of being alive, at backyard barbecues, religious services, or listening to live music. It’s a time for gratitude.”

Consider this an opportunity to change the attitude of our Depression-lite generation. Perhaps on Turkey Day, drop those superficial praises (“I’m glad my football team won”) (“I’m glad Grandpa is with us”) in favor of more intense celebrations. It’s easy enough, although it does take commitment.

The good news, those who study and lecture on gratitude tell USA Today that there are plenty of guides on how to find time for gratitude, from books to podcasts. They say that practice not only makes you feel good, but can also train the brain to survive that high.

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Norman Rockwell's Famous

The word of caution, however, is what humans call hedonic adaptation, which basically translates to our tendency to revert to the old—and in this case, inappropriately.

“We are very good at getting used to good and bad changes, which is adaptation, so in that sense, gratitude is the antidote to adaptation,” says author Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.”

To keep adaptation from eroding your sense of gratitude, “you need to commit to practicing it, thinking consciously, or talking about what you appreciate about your life,” she says. . “It’s work.”

But precisely because we are living through times of unprecedented difficulty, experts urge us not to squander this opportunity to make gratitude a permanent part of our psyche.

“This pandemic is a huge opportunity for us as a society to reset because if you missed the memo, it’s still out there,” says Nancy Davis Khoo, author of “The Thank-You Project.” Gratitude letters to friends and family.

Through that year-long process, Kho’s letters reinforced her positive recall bias, which is “a tendency to notice the good things around us, whether a good book or dinner or a friend, and that Reorganizes your brain so that it’s easier and easier to see those things in your life.”

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Showing Gratitude to Celebrities is at the Front of the Mind

Celebrities aren’t shy about the power of gratitude in their lives.

Oprah Winfrey is one of those stars who kept a gratitude journal, which is nothing more complicated than making notes of what you thank for daily.

,I practice being grateful, ” Winfrey told the 2017 graduates of Skidmore College. “And a lot of people say, ‘Oh, Oprah, it’s easy on you because you have everything!’ (But) I have everything because I have practiced being grateful.

In 2018, Lin-Manuel Miranda just tweeted: “Morning with gratitude for the books, movies, plays, and music you love most, and how they helped you figure out what you’re doing and who you are in your time here, it’s your time. “

In the same pre-pandemic year, actress Kerry Washington tweeted, “Today I choose: Gratitude. It will probably look and feel like a variety of emotions but I want to put my gratitude in the first place.”

In 2020, during the peak of the pandemic, Yoko Ono tweeted: “I thank every day how wonderful it is to still breathe, And you should too.”

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In 2020, Yoko Ono tweeted: "I thank every day how wonderful it is to still breathe. And so should you."

That simple act of appreciation came easily in the difficult 1930s when 1 in 4 Americans was unemployed And 1 in 5 – about 20 million people – survive on food stamps.

“The depression forced people to reevaluate their preferences,” says Stephen Mihm, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, who notes that people began to appreciate simple and inexpensive pastimes such as bridge and bird-watching.

“Something similar is happening now, where the act of hanging out with friends takes on new meaning,” he says.

Part of this awakening stems from the fact that the past seven decades have been filled with almost stagnant economic growth and no depression-like doomsday. This created a false sense that things would always be like this. In truth, for centuries a smooth sail like this has been more the exception than the rule.

“Group trauma has historically been more the norm,” Mihm says. “But deprivation is not the end of the world. Paradoxically, it often produces happier, healthier people.”

By the time the recession and, sometime later, World War II ended, says historian Brinkley, in 1945, Americans “went in over-gratitude in their feelings of wonder the American way”.

Jay Shetty, a former monk-turned-podcaster and purpose coach and author of “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day,” says the comparison was helped by few of the distractions that technology imposes on us these days. went.

“The pandemic has underscored for people that it’s the really simple things, like spending time with the people we love, that enrich our lives the most,” he says. “So it may be that the extent to which we continue with the attitude of appreciation will depend on how much we prioritize paying attention and pursuing gratitude practice.”

Shetty suggests building a habit of gratitude. For a week, plan to list three things that you are grateful for, five minutes after you wake up and five minutes before you go to bed. “Chances are you’ll find that the exercise feels so good that you continue well into the week,” he says.

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Health care workers ride a New York Police Department horse and applaud as they show gratitude to medical workers and essential workers outside NYU Langone Health Hospital on April 23, 2020 in New York City.

For many, COVID-19 challenges our ability to be grateful

To be sure, nearly two years into this health crisis, 770,000 Americans have died, causing immeasurable loss and suffering. About 1 in 7 of us, or close to 50 million people, have contracted the virus, which hasn’t affected some but left debilitating complications in others that can make life miserable.

Few have been spared by diligence, avoidance, luck or a rapidly developed and distributed vaccine. But the pain that has been endured is felt disproportionately by the poor, people of color and the LGBTQ community, whose ongoing struggles for economic and social equity were intensified by the pandemic.

Seemingly every aspect of our society – commerce, leisure, education, politics – has been affected by the virus and disconnected over COVID-19 vaccination, and the result has caused some fracture in the country’s so-called perfect union.

But this dark cloud has a shiny layer, experts say.

Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, and “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”

Emmons says it is no coincidence for him that the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated after a cold winter that killed many pilgrims; that it became a national holiday during the ravages of the Civil War; And that it was tied to its current November date in the middle of the Depression. “Does it matter?” He says. “I think so.”

Making gratitude a daily part of your life requires work and guidance, he says. In Emmons’ “The Little Book of Gratitude,” he explains that readers can better incorporate gratitude into their lives. His favorite method is called The George Bailey, after the character of Jimmy Stewart in the redemptive film “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

“You make a list of what you believe in your life and then cross them off one by one, contemplating the absence of this blessing, what your life would be like without that person, situation, object,” he says. Huh. It prompts you to “underestimate aspects of your life, and to take for granted.”

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Joni Mitchell's

One suggestion is to start at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Instead of launching into the usual superficial chatter, be courageous enough to really connect and share what you’re grateful for, says Kristy Nelson, executive director of . A Network for Grateful Life and author of “Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted.”

“Let’s change our customs and deepen the way we gather because we’ve taken a closer look at how fragile life is,” Nelson says.

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