Say thanks to this pandemic-survival trend

In the U.S., the average well-being of individuals has risen, owing in part to a newfound appreciation for gratitude. 

A greeting-card display for the Postal Museum's COVID-19 project at the O2 Arena, in London, Britain

For America’s millennials, the long pandemic has created quite an introspective moment. According to stationery company Shutterfly, 40% of them said they would be sending a greeting card for the first time in 2021. Something in the lockdowns and social distancing is compelling them to send notes of appreciation.

The shift toward gratitude fits with a new survey in Britain by Virgin Media O2. It found that more than half of adults in the country have become “more grateful” during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds, who are usually glued to digital screens, made new friends in their local areas.

For all the reports of a rise in loneliness, drug addiction, and other issues associated with mental health during the pandemic, the rise in gratitude has been overlooked. “It is precisely during difficult times where gratitude achieves its maximal power,” says gratitude expert Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis.

In his own national survey in the spring of 2020, Professor Emmons found more than 56% of American adults reported being very grateful, which was 17% greater than they reported being happy, hopeful, relieved, or joyful. Nearly 70% expected to be even more grateful in the future.

The act of “being grateful” – rather than feeling grateful – is a choice, he says, “that endures and is relatively immune from gains and losses.” It is a source for resilience.

Acting on gratitude may explain why well-being among individual Americans actually rose in 2020 – by 4% over 2019 on an index of indicators – according to a survey of 400,000 people by Sharecare, a digital health firm, and Boston University School of Public Health. “In the face of disease, death, and division, we continue to find promise in the resilience of our populations,” the survey’s authors concluded in a May report.

They note that internet searches for “how to thank” reached an all-time high last year. For many, the balm of gratitude has helped to create a calm over COVID-19.

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