Gratitude is Important in the Good Times…and it’s Essential in the Tough Times

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Almost 3 years ago I sat to write this article, my mind whirring amidst the global stress and uncertainty that was rapidly unfolding. From toilet paper hoarding to mass remote working, life as we knew it was changing. 

Did I know at the time that what many of us thought might be a few weeks or even months of COVID chaos would still be circulating years later? Definitely not. 

Am I still as grateful for the experiences I expressed in those early days of the pandemic unfolding? Definitely. 

The past few years have been tough on many levels. 

It has also been transformative in some wonderful ways too. 

Forced to let go of habits and routines that ruled so many of us, adapting the way we live, work, connect & think, many of us have rediscovered our values, our strengths, the people & experiences that bring us joy. 

We have found purpose and meaning in our lives. 

My hope is that we can hang on to the lessons we’ve learned, the things we’re most grateful for & use them to build a new way, a better way, rather than falling unconsciously back to the way things were. 

Reading my now 3-year-old article I realise that much of what I was grateful for at the beginning of the COVID-19 chaos, I can still be grateful for in my life today (with or without a pandemic!).

And for all those leader wanting to “just go back to the way things were pre pandemic”…you’re wanting the impossible. The world has changed and you’re being presented with an opportunity to show one of the core skills required of leaders in the 21st century – agility.  Embrace it and help build the workplace of the future that hangs onto only the bits that were genuinely working pre pandemic, and utilises everything we’ve learned thanks to it. 

What are you grateful for amidst the COVID-19 chaos?…

I’m not denying it, I know this is a serious issue, and I assure you I too am affected by it, the fear and uncertainty, the already negative and potentially negative consequences of a virus out of control. 

But you see I’ve taught my children that positive exists in every situation in life, but that it can be shy little critter, sometimes found trying to hide behind the generally larger creatures called pain and fear. If we can just find the strength to move positive to the front, we can end up with positive pain and growth.

No matter how small it may seem at the time, when we find the positives and focus on them, we gain the power and perspective to not just move on, but to genuinely evolve.

So here’s a list of some things that I’m grateful for in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic…

  • I’m grateful that working remotely allows me to be present for the beautiful sunsets that sweep across the landscape, and, even more so, that I can appreciate these precious moments of mother nature’s magic with my family instead of being mid commute or still stuck in the office as the sun sets
    • I’m grateful for the relative ease with which my children now finish all the vegetables on their plates as I explain to them the link between good nutrition, a strong immune system and the power of a healthy immune system in the fight against the harmful effects of the Coronavirus
    • I’m grateful that I can use my commute time which is not required as I work from home through this pandemic, to fit in that exercise I’ve been struggling to get around to for…well…for too long now
    • I’m grateful that my children are actually prioritizing personal hygiene steps like washing hands thoroughly and particularly before eating…the hair washing is still a work in progress
    • I’m grateful that I get to sleep in just that little bit longer in lieu of the usual commute into the office, and that breakfast with the family is all the more relaxed for the extra time I have available too
    • I’m grateful that on a daily basis I’m being provided with real-life examples and important opportunities to develop my children’s emotional intelligence as we watch and discuss the events unfolding …who would have thought the local supermarket would have provided such a rich classroom and created such a captive audience from my children who usually, though polite, can’t help but give me ‘that look’ when I start talking with them about principles of positive psychology and emotional intelligence which without the right context (or at least one that speaks sufficiently to a young child) can no doubt feel like a lecture (or just Mum interrupting the movie again to talk to us about it!). The sight of empty shelves in the supermarket is something they’ve not experienced before and it has created enough uncertainty in their young lives for them to be genuinely interested in my talks on the power of our thoughts and actions (the only things in life that we can actually control), the importance of empathy and the role we can all play in helping maintain and spread calm and compassion at this crazy time
    • I’m ever so grateful for the meditation and mindfulness practices that have become such an essential fixture in my daily routine, as they work to calm me each time I feel anxiety creeping in, thinking about the spread and many uncertainties of COVID-19, the many lives so sadly already affected and as a single Mum with no living parents to seek help from, the global economic impact that could so easily have a disastrous effect on many start-ups and growing businesses like mine. I’m also grateful that I get to choose the thoughts I feed and that despite my concerns, I really do have a lot to be grateful for whatever the outcome may be
    • I’m grateful for fabulous friends and technology that enables us to share much needed love and laughter from a distance as a further antidote to the abovementioned anxiety in this time of recommended ‘social distancing’
    • I’m grateful to be an affable introvert whose calendar was already pretty clear of 500+ gatherings(!) thus spared the disappointment that I know many others are facing as their once packed calendars of large social gatherings empties. I don’t need to share your disappointment to understand and empathize with it – and I do. I am genuinely sorry that this is happening to you and to all those involved in the many events that have been and will have to be cancelled or postponed, from event-goers to event organisers, performers, artists, and everyone in between who work so hard to make such events a wonderful reality and important opportunity for connection for so many
    • I’m grateful that I get to spend more hours enjoying the beautiful vista I’m fortunate to have from my home, and to spend more time with my loved ones in it. I’d forgotten how fun a board game can actually be and just how much you can discover about those around you as you mull over a giant jigsaw puzzle together
    • I’m grateful this pandemic has forced me to clean out my pantry….turns out I was inadvertently stockpiling some of the so called basics like flour, pasta, and cleaning supplies already, by not checking my supplies closely enough before doing my regular online groceries shops over the past 6 months – amazing what empty grocery shelves and a desire to avoid the supermarket will do for clearing and out the pantry and getting creative in the kitchen! Not sure if my children are grateful for this one though!
    • I’ve been grateful for the decreased traffic on the roads to and from the airport and for the once elusive but increasingly common spare seats on almost every domestic flight I’ve taken since January, though again my thoughts go out to the airlines (and so many other travel and hospitality industries) affected
    • I’m grateful to those working in our healthcare systems at this difficult time, and I’m also grateful for all those working at checkout counters of supermarkets and pharmacies who help ensure that when we can find stock, we are still able to buy it as they continue turning up to work every day, not without risk to their own health – thank you(!) to all of the people who can’t work from home and are out there every day providing essential services to our community from checkout operators to garbage collectors. We appreciate you and your selflessness helping so many of us maintain a modicum of normality amidst all the chaos
    • I’m grateful for all the planning and genuine care I’ve seen so many organisations step up and implement to look after those at risk and all our fellow Australians. Woolworths I read this morning are working with Meals on Wheels to distribute free toilet paper with all meals delivered to those in need, and Deliveroo are working with a large pharmaceutical chain to source the ever elusive hand sanitizer and provide it free to all its ‘Deliveroo’s’ – we really are in this together and we need more and more organisations and individuals thinking about what might be within their capacity to help
    • I’m grateful that working from home (instead of an open-plan office in the City) means I get to play my favourite music as white noise whilst I work (the right music selections are powerful in managing my mood, inducing more calm when needed and a bit of boogie music when I’m getting a little too calm (read sleepy) at my desk….(yes kids Mum did just use the word boogie – no judgement remember!)
    • Shared struggle can strengthen the bond between people, and I’m grateful to be able to witness this playing out in the world and community around me. Yes there are people unnecessarily stockpiling groceries to the detriment of those most at risk in our communities and a few fighting over toilet paper in supermarkets or making ignorant and hurtful comments but there are also beautiful stories of human resilience, compassion, empathy and generosity…you just have to choose where to look for them. In this past week I’ve heard of patrons of small businesses paying for appointments they have cancelled because they prefer to stay close to home, but insisting on paying for the appointments anyway to ensure the small business they appreciate can stay in business through this difficult time, neighbours purchasing grocery staples (including TP of course) and leaving on the doorsteps of elderly or quarantined families, large organisations who have the benefit of intel and disaster planning specialists opening their resources to smaller organisations who may not be able to afford the same level of intel and planning to protect their people…there is much good being done, you just need to look
    • I’m grateful I can turn off my television and not read newspaper reports that persist in spreading fear and feeding panic with bad news stories and misinformation and that again I’m provided an opportunity to teach my children the importance of empathy and the power they have, despite their young age to make positive choices that can significantly help others at this time. As a cancer survivor myself, my heart goes out to all those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation that severely compromise…destroy…ones’ immune system, chronic asthma sufferers, the elderly. I can only imagine the anxiety you must be feeling and the impact COVID-19 is having on your life as you have no choice but to lock yourselves away, even from your loved ones, in order to not become one of those statistics the media and public figures inadvertently label as inconsequential – remarking that COVID-19 has only a 1-4% fatality rate. Whilst the statistics might be correct, there’s an almost callous confidence that comes from some, knowing they’re part of the 96% who will survive an infection of COVID-19, and a risk they will therefore get complacent or worse still object to the hard approaches being taken to try and control it. I hope that as my children wash their hands, they are thinking of those most at risk and knowing that by them doing their small part, they’re actually making a potentially big difference.
    • Those of us in the privileged position of knowing we will probably only get minor symptoms even if we are unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, mustn’t become flippant, not just for our sake and that of our loved ones, but because it helps to prevent the spread and therefore the likelihood it will reach and touch the lives of those unlucky enough to find themselves in, or caring for, the 1-4% group. If so many people contract the virus that the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, we cannot be sure those who really need care from our health system will be able to get it. Reports from overseas where the death rate is alarmingly high suggest that doctors are already having to make the most difficult of decisions as to who gets the scarce resources and who they simply cannot even try to help. By washing our hands, and taking all other recommended steps as we learn more about this virus, not only are we looking after ourselves and those close to us, but we’re looking out for those most at risk and dare I suggest really frightened 4percenters amongst us who are relying on us not to be flippant, to wash our hands, go out a little less and be grateful that for us contracting COVID-19 won’t become a lottery of life or death.
    • I’m grateful to have finally found a use (and created some space in my already tiny and crammed bathroom drawers) for all those little liquid soaps I’ve built up over the years in those promotional bags that cosmetic companies give you as a gift with purchase….who would have thought hand soap and toilet paper would become such precious and elusive commodities
    • I’m grateful that the 2 things I can without a doubt control in life are my thoughts and my actions, because I can test my thoughts when fear threatens to seep too far into them, I can practice mindfulness to keep myself in the now and focus instead on our ability to care for ourselves and each other, and I can act in accordance with my values, even if that means potentially running out of loo paper! We all have this power – they are OUR thoughts and OUR actions, no one else gets to control them – ever. They are preciously all ours, every single one.
    • I’ve eluded to this one before but it’s so important to me that I’m particularly grateful for it…I’m grateful I get to model valued living for my children to help them understand the impact on our happiness and wellbeing of living in or out of alignment with our core values, to watch and help them identify their own values and help them build their emotional intelligence and resilience. Children after all are sponges, and our words and actions, the liquid they soak in and eventually release. Muddy water in, muddy water out, clear clean water in, clean clear water out.
    • I’m grateful that my teenage son has actually become more open to trying out some of the mindfulness and mediation technology I use in my business to increase calm and clarity. I tactfully resisted the urge to ask, Why now?, so I can’t of course be sure it’s related to the COVID-19 craziness enveloping the world but I’m sure grateful he’s doing it
    • I’m grateful that there are so many scientists working tirelessly to find a cure and a vaccine for COVID-19. Yes it may still be 12-18months away when they do crack the code but I choose to focus on the fact that it WILL arrive rather than focusing negatively on the long length of time it might take to reach us – we WILL get through this so let’s make it a time we look back on with pride as we remember how it brought us together (figuratively of course!), how we looked after each other and in particular those at greater risk amongst us, rather than letting it divide us
    • I’m grateful that there’s a chance the Australian tax payers might no longer have to fund a Royal visit to bushfire ravaged areas of Australia and am hopeful the government might instead use the opportunity to donate the funds directly to struggling businesses or people in the affected areas or perhaps use it for regeneration and conservation for affected native wildlife and habitats
    • I’m grateful for the timely reminder that might have otherwise gone unattended to in the ‘busyness’ of life, to increase my and my families Vitamin C intake (which many scientists have suggested is a key step in the defence against COVID-19), preparing us for the ensuing cooler weather as we farewell the summer months ‘DownUnder’
    • I’m ever so grateful for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Podcasts and all the other subscription services I don’t yet have but just might need if we are forced into lockdown or my family quarantined!
    • I’m grateful for rainy days during this time when we’re being encouraged to limit our outings so as to try and stem the rise in transmission of COVID-19…seriously, nothing already says it’s time for a chill at home with a good book or a movie marathon, like a rainy day does
    • I’m grateful for international travel bans that mean more of us Aussies are holidaying ‘at home’ this year and thereby pumping much needed $$ into our local economy and areas already adversely affected by the recent bushfires
    • I’m grateful that working from home, I’ve been able to get to my local weekly markets for fresh produce that support local farmers and producers, a luxury not often afforded me as a working Mum in the City
    • I’m grateful that I’m actually home in time (it’s not a long commute from my desk to my kitchen), to prepare nutritious and slightly more exciting new recipes for my family’s evening meal rather than the usual race home from the office to pull something I prepared earlier from the freezer
    • I’m grateful that COVID-19 is pushing me out of my comfort zone to become more curious about brands and products I don’t usually buy… I actually can’t’ find my ‘usuals’ on the shelves anymore! You see, as a Positive Psychology Practitioner now, I know that research has found strong links between levels of a person’s curiosity and happiness but having spent almost 19 years as, and amongst lawyers, you might say I grew more than a healthy dose of risk aversion and scepticism…the Kryptonite to curiosity
    • I’m grateful to replace the corporate heels for Ugg boots (no judgment!) for my commute from my bedroom to my home office
    • I’m grateful for all those out there who have a witty sense of humour and provide us all some much needed relief by shining a different lens on the COVID-19 crisis…yes we know it’s serious but so is humour as a strategy for coping
    • And finally, I’m grateful that this too shall pass.

    Okay so my list turned out to be longer than I expected!

    How long is your list?

    What are you grateful for?

    What thoughts and actions will you choose during this chaotic time for us all?