(def. feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received)

A FRIEND, Richard, shares a story of how in Asda earlier this week, after hearing stories of how staff had been abused – one had Pot Noodle and butter thrown at her – he had gone back and bought Heroes chocolates for the staff to share.

Another friend I chat with, from

two metres away in the street, tells me that her business is going down the

tubes but one of her clients just put a substantial sum of money into her account as a gift.

At school, a few of us parents applauded some of the teachers on the last day. At the same time I was feeling: “Maybe I shouldn’t be here, maybe my child shouldn’t be here. None of us knows for sure that we aren’t carrying this virus and asymptomatic, or not yet showing symptoms, and these teachers are people exposing themselves, right on the frontline.”

Almost everyone who is out there doing a key job can provoke some of this feeling. But the gratitude I think many of us are feeling right now isn’t just about appreciating the amazing things that NHS workers, teachers, delivery services and many more are doing right now, and what they will be called to do in the coming months. It’s also tuning in to some gratitude we know should always have been there.

When, on that last day, I saw the deputy head and exchanged a few words, I felt not just gratitude for teachers in the moment, but for all they’ve done for our kids in all the years they’ve been doing it. As we face being at home with them, schooling them ourselves, there’s that revelation that here is something we have taken for granted. What we have now is a wake-up call to appreciate what others have done for us.

I sense that feeling spreading out into all areas of my life. Suddenly I see the staff at the checkout in a new light – not just because of the madness they’re struggling with now, not to mention possible exposure to the virus, but because they’ve always been there, always doing that job.

But then I struggle with how to express this gratitude. Many of us feel like we need to do more. I message a friend who works in the NHS. We have an exchange about how she’s feeling, and I talk about wondering what I can do to help. “Stay at home,” she says. “Go for walks alone.”

“Seriously, people arranging to meet up and stuff cause they’ve got time off work? The kids should not have play dates. Tell all your friends. Take no contact very seriously.”

It’s a clear message – the biggest way we can show this gratitude is to stay in and not spread the virus.

But that is just one gratitude. It strikes me that for many of us, gratitude is something that is coming out of this moment.

I appreciate that gratitude can be attached to privilege, that it may be harder to be grateful when you’ve just lost your job, can’t work out how you’re going to feed your children, or are suddenly stuck at home with a partner who is abusive, or have lost a loved one to the disease.

Still, many people I know seem to have a fresh gratitude for simple things like a walk in the park, or a spray of tree blossom, or just the fact that they can stand there with the sun on their face for a while.

Mental health experts often recommend a gratitude diary. Already it seems we are often doing it in our heads. So let’s say thank you, thank you, thank you.


(def. desperate for a hug in a time of social distancing)

I WOULDN’T say I’m a tree-hugger – though I am quite definitely a tree-lover – but last week I found myself hugging a tree. I couldn’t hug the friend I was walking with, so I thought I’d hug a Scots Pine instead.

It was a reminder that even when we can’t cuddle each other, there are often other cuddle-recipients out there – dogs, cats, trees, even a really nice, mossy rock.

It’s also true that, as psychotherapist Angie Cameron once told me, physically hugging yourself does help. Your own physical touch causes the release of oxytocin and can help soothe and release stress.