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OPINION: Brightening your COVID-19 glow

It's never a bad idea to set positive health goals and weave gratitude into daily life, according to Banff-area writer Lorraine Widmer-Carson.
To combat the stresses of COVID-10, one columnist suggests practicing gratitude. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Are you using COVID-19 as a motivator to set some positive health goals? Have you started a new good habit lately?

Public health experts around the world are sounding the clarion – we need to accept responsibility for our personal health and simultaneously re-think our civic duties.

The request to wear a face mask in certain public places is an additional responsibility, recommended for our collective health and well-being.

"People are making themselves even more vulnerable to this virus through fear. Now, more than ever, we must take care of ourselves and show up for each other," said Dr. Mandy Simon, a health care professional working in the U.K. and U.S.

Simon has worked as a nurse practitioner, as an associate professor and as a cardiovascular disease researcher focused on stroke and biomarking.

Stress is a silent killer and Simon's commitment to community health was demonstrated during her online series, Finding your Holy Grail – Re-aligning Your Goals during this Pandemic.

In May, Simon conducted interviews from her hotel room, as she self-isolated following her shifts at the hospital. The series encouraged people to make good choices and set goals that would benefit their personal health first and simultaneously benefit the health of families, friends, co-workers, and strangers on the street.

As individuals, we also have significant responsibilities to take charge of our personal emotions and responses as well as support the greater cause. This pandemic is not a time to set goals related to individual rights and freedoms.

My current goals relate to the Gratitude Project and I am taking advantage of my solitary time to keep learning, reading and writing. This is my summer to keep up with my online learning and commit to "the book" and I realize that I am most interested in the pro-social benefits of gratitude and 'gratitudinal thinking'.

The more I learn about gratitude's essential value to our collective well-being, the more I understand that stress, fear, anxiety and worry are ravaging lives. Further, the effects of negative emotions are cumulative and can pose an even greater risk to health if remedial action is delayed.

If your negativity needle needs a nudge to get out of the red zone, try these tips:

1. First of all – acknowledge that your feelings of being hassled, stressed, worried or anxious are totally valid. The goal isn’t to eliminate the dark side, but rather to keep your fight or flight responses in a zone that doesn't overwhelm the entire operating system. When the stress hormone, cortisol is running at elevated levels, the entire immune systems is suppressed. Actively retraining yourself to get calm helps the immune system function better.

2. If your worries are persistent, schedule a timed session to think about "hassles, troubles and concerns." Writing your worries down on paper can free up space in your mind and help you see the issue more clearly. At the end of the session, consciously decide to stop worrying, saving your thoughts for your next session

3. Similarly, take time to list your reasons to be grateful. Think about the little moments of joy in your day. What brought a smile to your heart? Ask yourself: what went well in the past hour, the past day, the past week?

By disciplining yourself to acknowledge that there are hassles as well as bright moments in every day you are starting a habit that has been proven to benefit your energy levels, your immunity system and your relationships.

Lorraine Widmer-Carson is a mother, sister, wife, grandmother, writer, philanthropist, nature-enthusiast. She has now started the Gratitude Project, an initiative that weaves gratitude into daily living. See more at