These days I work in my home office in Michigan, grateful to be healthy after work travel to Bali via South Korea in January and February 2020 as well as to NYC in late February for my final wedding dress alterations. My fiancé and I are on day 21 of official shelter-in-place after making the heartbreaking decision in mid-March to postpone our wedding.
In just a few short weeks, the world has completely shifted on its axis and changed our reality, like everyone else. Due to asthma, I’m considered higher risk for COVID-19, so my fiancé properly gloves and masks up to venture out once a week in search of chicken, toilet paper, and lentils – all of which are non-existent at our local chain grocery store due to panic buying.
Every story on CNN is COVID-19-related. The Italian health care system is overwhelmed and lacks supplies to treat COVID-19 patients, many of whom have died. Fist-fights are breaking out over toilet paper in the grocery stores. Many of my family, friends, neighbors and others in Michigan have lost jobs due to the automotive shutdown. While out walking their dogs, strangers are afraid to look at or even acknowledge one another for fear of catching COVID-19.
In the words of Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick, what the world needs now is for humanity to come together through love, compassion, and kindness. Businesses need leaders who are unafraid to show emotion, be vulnerable and admit “I don’t know how this will turn out, but we’ll get through it together”. Individuals need reassurance they are not alone during this physical distancing, which social connection via technology offers. Despite COVID-19, there is still much goodness and abundance in today’s world – gifts for which we can choose to be grateful.
Choosing gratitude allows the brain to switch into a resourceful emotional state. Resourceful states include wellbeing, happiness, and positive energy, which buffer anxiety, reduce fear and counteract negativity. Research shows that demonstrating gratitude improves psychological and physical health and mental resiliency.
Try the following gratitude exercise. Ask yourself: “What are you grateful for today?” Consider all that is good and positive in your life. Acknowledge the beauty surrounding you as well as that which lives within you. Write each of these items down. Once you have captured everything, then find a quiet, comfortable spot to sit.
Close your eyes, place your hands palm up on your thighs, and repeat silently to yourself: “Today I remember to be grateful.” Breathe in through your nose for four counts, then blow out your breath through your mouth for four counts. Repeat 10 times. When done, gently open your eyes. Assess how you feel after the breathing exercise, name what you are feeling and identify where in your body you feel the sensation.
As citizens of the world, we are called to be our best selves in this unprecedented time of change, ambiguity and discomfort. Each of us is resourceful, creative, and whole, with extraordinary opportunity to leverage our talents and gifts for the good of all.
Leveraging these talents creates abundant gifts, examples of which we see all around us: critical businesses stay open to support prescription and grocery needs while the electrical grid and internet continue to operate. Water, trash and sewer services and HVAC equipment continue to function while brave and dedicated first responders care for those infected with COVID-19. 15 companies race to find a COVID-19 vaccine while Italians sing from their balconies to shine a light through the darkness and spread hope.
Individuals freely share their DIY talents with all to sew masks, teach parents how to use technology for homeschooling, facilitate virtual dance classes, donate career coaching programs, protect the homeless from COVID-19, offer meditation circles, create and drop off cards to quarantined nursing home residents, connect with each other online, and the list goes on.
These selfless gifts help individuals and communities flourish during this time of uncertainty and fear. The capability to leverage these gifts results from conscious choice: selecting gratitude over fear. Gratitude is a powerful tool to manage your own emotions as well as those of others during COVID-19 so you can leverage your gifts to serve others. What can you do today to serve humanity with love, compassion, and kindness?