Clapping hands
Two hands clapping

Coronavirus welfare advice: Importance of compassion and gratitude in times of crisis and beyond

The University Counselling Service is producing a series of articles and podcasts to support students during the coronavirus pandemic. This time we present a bog on showing gratitude. 

During the current coronavirus pandemic there have been a number of positive things to emerge from the crisis. Time to slow down and reflect on the important things in life. Cleaner air and quieter towns. One important positive social phenomena is the depth of gratitude and compassion the large majority of the population have expressed toward those who work in the NHS. People initially seemed to feel a spontaneous desire to want to show their appreciation in all kinds of ways, not only the Thursday evening clapping, for the hard work and dedication of doctors and nurses. This soon extended to all those working in the NHS, from administrators, cleaners, drivers, lab technicians, the list is long.

The world may feel like a better place if we could be aware and acknowledge, not only in times of crisis, how much we depend on others, not only those who provide us with important services but those who are close to us. This sense of compassion and gratitude is a good antidote to the dangers of becoming focussed on the negative over the positive sides of life. We can all get caught up in this negativity, as this way of thinking is part of our evolutionary development, but it can lead to a sense of embitteredness which can be bad for our mental wellbeing. Taking time to feel and express gratitude is helpful to those we are grateful to. It lets them know just how much they are valued and appreciated. But it is helpful to us, too, and can make a huge difference, as by showing compassion towards ourselves and to others can improve mental wellbeing.

If you are keeping a journal to help maintain your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus lock down, try to take note of these feelings of gratitude. Psychology researchers tell us that expressing compassion and gratitude helps us to put situations in perspective, enables us to sleep better, makes us more emotionally resilient, strengthens our relationships, and even boosts our immune systems. By recognising and showing our appreciation for those who provide us with the things we need, as well as to our friends, family and colleagues, not only makes them feel good but also improves our own mental wellbeing.

So now may be a good time to thank that delivery driver for bringing you that takeaway no matter what the weather is like...but only from a safe distance.

For a range of additional supportive resources, go to the Counselling Service webpages, or visit the coronavirus student advice page for more general information about the impact of coronavirus.