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Center Founder and Director Richard Davidson shares research-backed insights on how to appreciate basic goodness in order to help us get through this pandemic.
Appreciation is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. This is a time for appreciation. While we are seeing the devastation wreaked by COVID-19 and the incalculable suffering it has wrought, things would be much worse were it not for all extraordinary acts of kindness and support provided by literally millions of people across the globe.
There are the front-line workers, first responders, the nurses and doctors who are treating the most seriously ill.
Those who hold essential jobs such as police, sanitation, delivery services, and food who continue to support our communities.
Those workers who are now building and assembling critically needed medical supplies.
Scientists and public health personnel who are researching potential treatments, developing a vaccine and tracking affected individuals.
And then there are those closer to home… our spouses, our parents and grandparents, our children whose routines are disrupted and they are being called upon to step up and support the family system by doing house cleaning, cooking, food shopping, babysitting and more.
There are also our friends and family living in different parts of the globe. A remarkable thing about this pandemic is that we are all in this together, with everyone in every part of the globe deeply affected in similar ways.
And there are the countless millions who are practicing physical distancing, remaining in quarantine and otherwise dramatically altering their daily lives not just for their own benefit but for the benefit of others so that they do not become vectors for the spread of this devastating virus.
Finally, there is our mind! Have you experienced the impulse to touch your face and then remembered the instruction to not touch your face? This is a cause of celebration and a moment to appreciate the extraordinary power of our mind to be trained and to be a force for good!
"By focusing our mind on appreciation, we can lift our mood and remain resilient in the face of this calamity."
So when we are feeling overwhelmed, when we are longing for our routines to revert back to what they were, let us recall some specific person in one or more of these categories, or specific action, and appreciate how they are serving the greater good. By focusing our mind on appreciation, we can lift our mood and remain resilient in the face of this calamity.
Our neuroscientific research clearly indicates that simple practices like these can change our brains, switch the activation patterns in the brain from threat circuits to circuits of caring and positive emotion, alter stress hormones, and foster a more resilient mode of interacting with the world.
Five daily opportunities to practice appreciation
There are five natural points throughout the day when we can “practice appreciation.” When we wake up in the morning and notice that we are still alive, we can appreciate that we are still living and that we are endowed with this amazing human mind and brain.
Prior to each of three meals each day, we can practice appreciation. In addition to the first responders, medical personnel and all the others mentioned above, there are those many different people who contributed to having food on the table. The farmers, those who cooked, the people that delivered food to our groceries or shops, the workers responsible for creating our dishes and silverware, the utensils, the pots, pans, refrigerator, stove, oven and whoever it is that we may be sharing our food with.
And then there is the time just prior to sleeping when we can reflect on the day and recall one or two specific instances in which someone or something was especially helpful during this stressful time.
"We can see that when we appreciate in this way, our mood is elevated, we feel lighter and stronger and gradually in this way we can develop the confidence that things will indeed improve and that there is really such a thing as basic goodness that we all possess."
And when we pay close attention to our minds and bodies, we can see that when we appreciate in this way, our mood is elevated, we feel lighter and stronger and gradually in this way we can develop the confidence that things will indeed improve and that there is really such a thing as basic goodness that we all possess.
Let’s harness this opportunity during the worst pandemic in the last 100 years and nurture appreciation for the countless acts of kindness that will sustain us through these challenging times and enable us to emerge on the other side with an even stronger conviction in the basic goodness of humanity.