COVID-19 has affected the world in many ways, including student’s mental health, how can gratitude effect and alleviate some of this pandemic’s effects on students?
What is Gratitude?
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”Robert Emmons- Leading Scientific Expert https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition
Benefits of Gratitude & How it Pertains to the Students Emotions:
Question: What emotions do you feel when you’re lying in bed at night? “Stress, it never goes away. Things forgot to do that day, how to prepare for the day after, things that should have gotten done.”
“Depends on the night- stressed at night thinking about a lot of things, exhaustion”
Interview participants 1 and 2
Gratitude reminds us of what truly matters in our lives. Sitting at home during the pandemic has caused many to get inside their heads, and stress about frivolous subjects, unable to stop. Gratitude exercises offer that mental buffer to pause the constant mental disruption of the subjects of stress and reminds the brain of what matters. Expressing gratitude also releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that aids in the response to stress.
Question 1: How often do you get excited about something?
“Not very often, when I do it is really exciting. There’s not much to get excited about because of limitations, and I have to make opportunities for myself.”
Question 2: What kind of stressors do you have in your life?
“The internal stressors are not being able to see friends feel stuck in the room and in my head and not being able to get out.”
Q1 answered by participant 1, Q2 answered by participant 2
Often times how people describe experiencing depression is that everything is grey, muted and that there is nothing to live for. What is really helpful is exercises that allow someone to break up time in their head, to create concrete memories of good times that interrupt the seemingly endless nothingness. Gratitude not only allows for the practicer to remember concrete times of joy but also creates optimism for the future.
During COVID-19 a large portion of the depressive swings in teenagers’ mood stemmed from there being no change, and nothing to really look forward to. For the students I interviewed, creating something to look forward to becoming increasingly energy-consuming and difficult. The creation of optimism alleviates a lot of the emotional toll required to create excitement.
Question: What effects do you notice when you do not get to socialize?
“Worried a lot more about friends, I couldn’t read body language (about their mental health issues). I think about friends more, and it took a huge toll on my mental health. I worry about the relationship, stop talking to them as much, which only made the worrying worse”
When one expresses gratitude to another, the interaction provides a multitude of benefits. The person who expresses gratitude will feel good because they made someone else feel better. The person who is being expressed to will feel valued, and therefore more likely to invest in that relationship.
Remote learning and social distancing lessened valuable interpersonal interactions for students everywhere. My interviewees noticed a decrease in both the number of relationships they have and the quality of the remaining ones since the beginning of the pandemic. In order to aid the remaining relationships, gratitude can add value, but also make people more comfortable voicing concerns in their relationships. Instead of dropping a friendship altogether, when gratitude is practiced the relationship can have enough value that it is worth the energy to work the issues out knowing that both people don’t mean harm because they both value each other.
Solutions & Resources
Examples of some of the pages:
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Because the problem was created by COVID-19, does it need a long term solution?
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