Research on gratitude has shown that it just might be the single most powerful method for increasing our well-being. Whether the research is about gratitude’s effects on our emotions, relationships, career success, or health, subjects experience dramatic improvements when they engage in some form of gratitude practice.

It’s also free.

Still, the average person only considers being grateful for the “good things” in their life. As a therapist who regularly helps my clients get through other types of crises, I know that to really enjoy the full benefits of gratitude we want to appreciate the “bad things” for their golden nuggets of wisdom. Like a gold miner panning for gold, we can sift out a majority of the dirt, only leaving behind what’s valuable. As the Covid-19 crisis rages on, it is an excellent time to put this into practice:

I’m grateful that the Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to…

1. Question what we’ve accepted as true
It’s rare for people to question deeply-held beliefs without it being in reaction to some unpleasant experience. While we don’t wish for the experience itself, we can appreciate the new perspectives and possibilities it opens up for us. For example, the Covid-19 crisis is highlighting the devastating consequences of dominance narratives, which mistake bravado’s swaggering shows of defiance, intended to impress or intimidate, for authentic bravery. Perhaps we will get better at honoring real courage.

2. Gain clarity
Crises often lead people to reevaluate the way we use our time, energy, and other finite resources. The Covid-19 crisis gives us a chance to do this on a societal level. Shelter-in-place mandates to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus have forcefully ripped the masks off many BS profit-over-people policies, reminding us of what really matters. Some of the most compassionate social reforms in the US came from the Greatest Generation, on the heels of the Great Depression and World War II. Could this pandemic motivate more citizens to prevent the dismantling of the Greatest Generation’s legacy, and actually choose to expand upon it?

3. Get creative and motivated
Crises are disruptive by nature, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Innovation thrives in these environments. In the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve seen people immediately working to solve new challenges as they arise. As a majority of us are sheltering-in-place, people are turning to various forms of art and entertainment to help get them though the day. Maybe STEAM (vs. STEM) will get more support. Turmoil can also be a huge catalyst for implementing life-improving changes. Many people are finally taking action on dreams they once set aside for “some day”.

4. Discover our own inner strengths and value
People in crises are often somewhat oblivious to the fact that they’ve been living as though the light is at the end of a long tunnel. As people learn to cope and adapt, they build their self-confidence and come to realize that the light they seek is actually within them–which means it’s always available. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, there have been countless beautiful examples of people shining their light, sharing their gifts and spreading their love.

5. Remember that we are all connected
Times of crisis teach us how to lean on others for support, even if it’s originally out of desperation. As we are physically distancing, many of us are being more intentional about nurturing our social connections. The extensive reach of the Covid-19 pandemic has also brought back a larger sense of global community that had been increasingly lost. We really are all in this together.

Please don’t mistake this for denial about the horrors of crisis. The consequences of any crisis are intense, and very real. The Covid-19 pandemic is already leaving a devastating trail of destruction in its wake, and it’s not over yet.

Gratitude reminds us that even in what seems to be the darkest of times, there is still room for joy.