Perhaps this is the last thing on our minds at the moment with all the suffering and uncertainty that the Covid-19 crisis is causing. However, the practice of gratitude is of paramount importance for spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing – recommended by Religion, science and almost every self-development book out there.
I’ll admit, as someone of a naturally nervous disposition, my gratitude practice often falls by the wayside as I get caught up in the frustrations and anxiety of every-day drama. But, I try my best to find things to be grateful for every day as I recognise, and experience, the benefit this provides me. Being thankful for things helps me to feel privileged rather than entitled to the pleasurable experiences that come my way, appreciating them all the more when they do. However, these last few weeks of crisis and the vast affect it is having on the every day things we do and obtain to bring us security and happiness have got me thinking… do many of us only really appreciate something once we no longer have it?
I have asked myself this question recently while I have been feeling unwell and isolating at home. One of my symptoms is a complete lack of taste and smell – the usual accompaniment to a stuffy nose and sore throat. And so, for the last few days, not only have I been (rather characteristically) catastrophizing if i’ll ever get these senses back but also, reflecting on how easily I took these for granted when they functioned normally. When marvelling at the simple delight of the taste of a cool, juicy orange or the smell of seaside air or fresh laundry – I thought of those things and was grateful for them but, without acknowledging my very ability to taste or smell. What an oversight! It is only now that I cannot enjoy the effect of these complex systems that I truly appreciate what a gift they are.
We all take things for granted. Today’s busy and demanding lifestyles constantly draw our attention away from the Here & Now and so we mindlessly interact with others and our environments without appreciating the means by which we do that. However, practicing gratitude really combats the discomfort we may feel when life’s winding road gets a little ‘off road’. Living through tough times such as war or a global pandemic is unsettling and often painful as our lives are significantly interrupted and we experience suffering in and around ourselves.
But what if we also received these times as an opportunity to strip back and practice gratitude for what we do have, such as our ability to connect with and positively influence other people’s lives? What if this crisis is giving us the opportunity to reconnect with our higher attributes of compassion, love and acceptance – as we tend to those who need our help, comfort ourselves and others and accept the beauty and ephemerality of existence? As with all experiences in life, we chose how we perceive them. And as inspiring author Melody Beattie has said,
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
And so, amidst the chaos of these troublesome times, let us take conscious moments to be grateful for the gifts we do have, whether these be the important people in our life, the pleasure we experience through our senses or the wonder of our very existence. Perhaps it is in these moments that we are ever truly alive.