The Importance of Gratitude in the Time of COVID

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Giving thanks and expressing gratitude is one of the oldest concepts in society. It reminds us of how special, beautiful, and blessed our lives are even when we are faced with challenging, stressful, and overwhelming situations.

The concept of gratitude is especially important in the midst of a pandemic like COVID-19 when the world around us is unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous.

If you're wondering how gratitude can impact your life or even if you're just looking for ways to infuse your life with more appreciation and thankfulness, here are the key things you need to know.

What Is Gratitude?

Robert Emmons, a psychologist and world expert on gratitude, defines gratitude as the ability to recognize the goodness in your life, which is due to your surroundings as well as the actions of another person or a group of people.


Being grateful is a virtuous quality that allows you to not only see the best in other people but in your own life.

Practicing gratitude on a regular basis is instrumental in helping you become more optimistic. It also can have a huge impact on your overall mood and perspective.

What's more, when expressed during challenging times, gratitude can help you recognize the goodness of life, which in turn helps you calm your fear and anxiety and maintain a positive outlook in an uncertain situation.

Benefits of Gratitude During COVID-19

Research shows that positive emotions like gratitude are closely connected to health and wellness. Not only do positive emotions promote happiness; they also create an upward spiral in your life.

Emotions like gratitude and humor also help you cope with anxiety and uncertainty by focusing your mind on the things in life that you value, as well as what is in your control, and what you can give back to others.

Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness also can help build your resilience, which in turn, helps you cope with your current issues or problems and provides a way for you to move forward despite the challenges you face.

There also is some research that indicates that practicing gratitude during a crisis like COVID-19 is not only important for boosting your mood psychologically, but also helps your physical health in response to illnesses like respiratory infections.

Gratitude Provides Health Benefits, Study Shows

One study of 118 adults found being grateful resulted in significantly fewer physical health problems such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Respiratory infections

Additionally, limiting worry about COVID-19 may actually improve your outcome should you contract it. A study of 997 survivors of the SARS epidemic found that the recovered individuals were more resilient, had better social support, and experienced less SARS-related worry.

Ways to Be More Grateful

COVID-19 has a way of making people feel like their world was turned upside down overnight. They struggle with feeling scared and feeling like everyone is overreacting.

But learning to practice gratitude every day can help bring some stability to your life by getting you to focus on what is good rather than what is uncertain or unpredictable.

Write a Thank-You Note, Text, or Email

Expressing gratitude can help you feel more connected to other people in your life. Research has shown that small gestures like this can have a significant impact on well-being. It also allows you to focus on what you appreciate about another person, which can bring you happiness and satisfaction.

Tell Someone You Appreciate Them

Whether it's a thumbs up in a Zoom meeting or a simple statement during a telephone call, letting someone know you are grateful for them not only improves your mood, but improves their mood as well.

Be sure you are generous with your gratitude and you will not only see improvement in your own mindset but also in those around you.

Start a Gratitude Journal

Whether you create an online gratitude journal, write things in an old notebook, or purchase a special gratitude journal, keeping track of the things you're grateful for has shown to improve wellness.

Research on healthcare workers who logged three good things that happened to them each day showed improved work-life balance as well as improvements in depressive symptoms and less burnout.

Make Gratitude a Daily Habit

One way to make gratitude a regular part of your day is to make it a habit to think of three things you are thankful each day. While it doesn't really matter whether you perform this exercise first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed, the important thing is that you're taking time and reflecting on what you are grateful for.

Look for Patterns in Your Life

As you start to reflect on things you're grateful for, you may start to see a pattern. This information can help you structure your days so that you are making the most of them.

For instance, if you are regularly thankful for something in nature, getting outside may be what you need to boost your mood. Or, if you're regularly thankful for time playing games with the family, then you know prioritizing family time helps bring you joy and increases your gratitude.

Give Thanks Through Prayer or Meditation

Countless studies have demonstrated that mindfulness and meditation can have a positive impact on a person's mental health and well-being. So, regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you may want to consider incorporating prayer, meditation, or mindfulness as a vehicle for expressing gratitude.

Keep Track of Everything You're Grateful For

Using a phone app like Gratitude Plus, you can record the things you're grateful for and reflect on them later when you are struggling. Another option is to use social media or even post-it notes on your mirror to express your gratitude.

The key is to use a method that allows you to be reminded of the things for which you are grateful. This way, when you're feeling down or going through a particularly rough patch, you can reflect on the things that previously brought a smile to your face.

Give Thanks for Everyday Things

Gratitude doesn't have to be over the top or something significant. In fact, being thankful for something as small as a fresh cup of coffee, a sunny day, or the perfect parking spot can give your mood a little boost and train your brain to see the good rather than the bad.

Reframe Past Negative Experiences

Think about the worst moments in your life. Then, contrast those with where you are now. Consider not only how you endured, but also what you learned through the experience.

When you find the positive in negative experiences, they no longer live rent-free in your head. You have turned them into something positive that benefitted you in the end.

A Word From Verywell

There is no doubt that living through a pandemic is challenging. But remind yourself that life will return to normal—even if it is a new kind of normal. In the meantime, though, try to look on the bright side during this difficult situation—it's beneficial for both your mental and your physical health.

What's more, tapping into gratitude can help you solve problems, be more creative, build resilience, and strengthen your immune system. So, be sure you are stopping to think about what you're grateful for right now. Doing so can help you cope with COVID-19 and boost your mood along the way.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.