Covid has taught us to be grateful

Psychologists have found that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones, referred to as the negative bias. As a result, a lot of people tend to move farther away from gratitude, which is an essential precursor to happiness.



By Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

Published: Sun 9 Jan 2022, 9:22 PM

Some dates seem special and are much awaited. One of those was 2020. The Expo in Dubai was scheduled to begin for 6 months in 2020. The Olympics were too. There were many celebrations planned on a global level. But what actually happened was a different story. Covid 19 was initially reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 31, 2019. On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. We are still dealing with the 2020 mania and its aftermath in 2022. The euphoria of the new year has definitely quietened. All we have is our hope and resilience.

One value that emerged strongly (though it has existed forever) is of gratitude. Smile you are alive, said Sadh guru pre-Covid times. But how true that is suddenly. Just to be alive is such a blessing these days. “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” said Agatha Christie. These words were written a century ago, but they seem to be of more significance and truth today than when they were actually written.

Gratitude seems to be a mantra as it should be. I remember when we I would fall down and bruise my knee, my grandmother would say thank God, you only bruised your knee and not hit your head. When the car would have a small accident, the sentiment was the same, thank God, it’s just a scratch and no one got hurt. We seem to be saying something similar these days, thank God your Covid flu was so mild. The scenario changes, the catastrophes differ, but when we escape with a scratch only, the words that we echo are thank God.

Many times, we might slip into the error of being ungrateful. Usually there is the tendency to focus on what is not happening for us and turn a blind eye to what is happening. It is only the living that can accomplish things so the fact that we are still alive means there is hope. We are alive and we must be grateful. This is a feat we must never take for granted. Many who started last year with us are not with us today not because they didn’t want to, but they just couldn’t make it. To be alive is not a right but a privilege.

As long as we have life, there is always hope. No matter what has happened in the past, the fact that we have the grace of life means there is hope for us. We can still live our dreams. We can still have our expectations become a reality. The truth of the matter is that things could have been worse than they have been. What we see is most likely what we will get. If we see doom and gloom, then the year will be full of frustrations and disappointments. If, on the other hand, we see possibilities we are more likely to have a better life. There are many territories to conquer in our lives so let’s look forward with unbridled hope.

I studied the capitalist theory in political science that society was divided into the haves and the have nots. While the same continues to be true, I also feel society is divided into the people who have gratitude and those who don’t have gratitude. How many of us are grateful for our health? A treasure that we have enjoyed for so many years. One illness and all we can do is crib. How many of us are grateful for the extended years of work/employment that we have enjoyed and benefitted from? But if we get laid off, we complain no end.

There are people who undergo a tremendous amount of pain yet remain grateful. Even if we have some physical problems or some pain we have to live with, we should thank God for what we still can do, whether it is waking up in the morning, or going to work, or finding some moments of enjoyment in our lives. Some people have handicaps, yet are so grateful they are alive or that their suffering is not worse. They are grateful for whatever blessings they do have and that our ailments are not worse than they are.

Studies show that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25 per cent. If gratitude is so good for your mental and emotional health, then why do so many people struggle to practics it? As humans, we are hardwired to dwell or fixate on the bad. Psychologists have found that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones, referred to as the negative bias. As a result, a lot of people tend to move farther away from gratitude, which is an essential precursor to happiness.

Instead of saying Thank God it’s Friday (or Saturday/Sunday), can we say Thank God I’m alive? Instead of Covid driving us crazy, can we make gratitude go viral?

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of SBM Consultancy (formerly Legal Connect.


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