Los Angeles based Lucy Broadbent talks about how she discovered a greater sense of gratitude thanks to COVID-19 and how research has proven it promotes feelings of happiness and life satisfaction.
We went out to dinner last week. It had been over a year since the last time. A lot has changed. Including the insides of my head.
Los Angeles, where we live, has been in varying degrees of lockdown for over a year. But now, we are unfurling our wings. Restaurants are open again. My son might even make it back to school. My husband and I have been vaccinated.
To celebrate, we headed out to our favorite restaurant in clothes smelling of moth balls from so little use. We imagined, for a brief moment, that we were picking up our old lives where we had left off. But we were wrong about that. There was a presence at our table, which hadn’t been there in my previous life. I think the best way to describe it, was gratitude. My husband felt it too.
There was something else as well. Nice as the evening was, there was a realization that living my best life didn’t actually require fancy restaurants anymore. For someone who once aspired to the high life of the jetset, this came as a shock.
As all of us emerge slowly from our separate lockdowns, we will find the world changed. More importantly though, maybe we find ourselves changed too.
Psychologist Professor Sharon Parker believes we will have become more grateful. “During this pandemic, there have been wonderful collective expressions of gratitude to thank essential workers,” she says. “As things open up, and slowly return to quasi-normal, this is a great time to pause and reflect on what we are grateful for.”
Besides my recent conversion to saintliness, I have had other revelations too. I am conscious now, more than I ever was before, what it means to be alive. Perhaps I was just younger, or too careless before, but the business of living or dying wasn’t anything I thought too much about. But in the face of daily death tallies, I have an appreciation for life now that has added a whole spectrum of colour that I was blind to before.
I have also become absurdly and pitifully grateful for the small stuff. The bread-making my husband has got good at, the rounds of Clue with my son who always wins, the evenings when the three of us have turned off the TV and danced in our living room, the hillside that we live on where I’ve taken up gardening. I’d even take a walk with the dog over clothes shopping these days. What’s happened to me?
Fresh research shows that gratitude promotes feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. Could that be what I am experiencing?
Relationships have become more precious too, no longer taken for granted. One of the highlights of my year has been my daily Facetime conversations with my 84-year-old mother. She is in England. I am in America. Had we not been forced into separate isolations, we would never have made so much time for each other.
Every single day, for the past 365, we have chatted for an hour. I have listened to a story about Winston Churchill stepping on her toe at a garden fete she went to when she was six years old; another about how she once met the Duke of Edinburgh at a charity event, and he told her he’d found a spelling mistake in the programme. “I’ll give you a prize if you can find another,” said my mother, who had been the author of the programme.
I might have missed these stories had we not had lockdown. I might not have been listening hard enough in a previous life.
The truth is, I realize now how lucky I am. That’s what has happened over the last year. Was I aware of my good fortune enough before? Of course not. There wasn’t time. And restaurants weren’t serving up life appreciation on their menus.
For more from Professor Sharon Parker: https://www.transformativeworkdesign.com/post/life-is-short-gratitude-as-we-ease-out-of-lockdown