Grateful attitude in times of crisis is powerful coping mechanism, UCLA research finds

There is a Greater Good Science Centre at UCLA, Berkley.

Researchers there study the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of wellbeing. They found that having a grateful attitude in times of crisis is a powerful coping mechanism.

Because if we have gratitude as our cornerstone, if we look for and find the good in the world, we can better withstand the ups and down of life. The crises are temporary, the good is a constant.

I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude during my time with family in the Christmas/New Year period. I’m grateful for the love and support of so many people in my life. Grateful for this magnificent country I’m proud to call home. Grateful the Australian people have entrusted a Labor Government to steward the nation through these toughest of days.

It’s true. There are times when we need to search for the good to be grateful for. Those enduring or cleaning up after floods know about that. But when I have been to flood-affected areas, the good finds you. It’s the neighbours checking on neighbours. The emergency services teams working selflessly around the clock. The strangers offering a helping hand.

One of the great aspects of gratitude is that it can foster hope. And that is the overriding feeling I take into 2023.

This is the year I have hope we will support First Nations peoples in their quest for constitutional recognition. A Voice to Parliament is one step towards realising the vision of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This beautiful, historically significant document invited all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to walk together to create a better future for our nation.

I honestly believe the majority of Australians believe that First Australians should be finally included in the nation’s birth certificate at long last and will vote Yes at the referendum. We are a harmonious, egalitarian society and we understand the deep wounds caused by colonisation. The failure to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution perpetuated the myth of terra nullius — land belonging to no one — that the British colonisers declared upon their arrival. What an insult to the traditional owners who’d been here for 60,000 years.

It is beyond disappointing that the National Party has chosen not to support the Yes campaign.

But, I still have hope for those who sit opposite us in Parliament. Hope that Peter Dutton shows leadership on this matter. The best time for the Liberal Party to read the room would have been the day after the election. The second best time is right now.

It was the decision of the voters in May last year that means I have the portfolio that covers the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Government Services. That has given hope that we now have a Government that will correct the course of the NDIS and our social security system. My own hope for this is well-founded, with the robodebt royal commission and the comprehensive review of the NDIS underway. These investigations will recommend how we can ensure the most vulnerable in our community never again have to seek protection from their own government.

I also take comfort knowing that, under an Albanese Government, generations of young Australians who despair about the impact of climate change will be given hope. This year we will not just talk about the emissions targets we passed in Parliament in our first six months, but we will set out how we will achieve them.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission will restore Australians’ trust in public institutions and strengthen the integrity of government. I know the implementation of the NACC will bring greater accountability and transparency that has been so sadly lacking this past decade. This new watchdog with teeth will bolster our democracy and deter those who seek to misuse public institutions for their own interests.

But my greatest hope is that we find a new level of bipartisanship across the depth and breadth of the ambitious agenda this 47th Parliament has before it this year. Australians are counting on it.

We face serious challenges as the world’s economy struggles to balance the books after the height of the pandemic and deals with the added complexity of Russian aggression against a Ukraine that refuses to submit to tyranny.

So over the next two weeks of writing the wrong date and of telling ourselves that as long as we start our New Year’s resolutions before the end of January, it still counts, take a minute to think about what you are grateful for. Family. Friends. Your dog. Knowing your children sleep at night without an air raid siren going off. The fact you applied your sunscreen evenly.

There is good everywhere. And because there is good, there is hope.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 4 January 2023.