Gratitude in the Time of Coronavirus

By 03/23/2020Sin categoría

By Kathryn Hayward, MD and David L. Thomas Jr., JD

It is time to quarantine. Even if you are not personally scared of being infected with coronavirus. Even if you think you’ve already had it. Even if your government officials or others tell you it’s not necessary.

It IS necessary.

We missed the moment when we could contain this pandemic. Now the only way to stop it is to quarantine.

How long? At least a month.

The first 15 days will clarify whether you are infected and keep you from transmitting the virus if you are.

The second 15 days will allow you to provide a greater safe space for those who are working in public areas. We need to protect those who are keeping us safe and providing us with basic necessities.

Spain, where we live, is currently regarded as the “new epicenter” of the European experience with coronavirus. The infection rate and death toll rise by the day. Our hearts break with each tragic story…of illness and death, of small businesses collapsing, of people with no economic cushion, of people who cannot get the health care they need. The virus is ravaging our health and our economy.

How are people coping?

With many emotions.

We are angry, terrified, frustrated, incredulous, bored, worried, sad.

And we are grateful.

Our city has been quiet since the quarantine began. No pedestrians, hardly any traffic.

That first quarantine night, we were in our kitchen beginning to prepare dinner. Suddenly, at 8pm, a lot of noise erupted outside our window.

It sounded like we were in the middle of a soccer stadium. People were hooting, hollering, clapping. Some were banging pots and pans. It lasted 10 minutes.

We did not realize it then, but this was happening all over Spain. Every night since, people go outside on their balconies, in their yards, in their doorways and join voices.  Click here or on the following image to see a short video of this expression of solidarity and gratitude:

The outpouring has become more elaborate each night. On Saturday in our town on the island of Mallorca, someone’s speakers blasted the song “Happy Birthday” (in Spanish). Last night, two police cars joined in with their lights and sirens.

Eight o’clock is Spain’s time to show gratitude for los luchadores incansables contra el coronavirus (the tireless fighters against  coronavirus).

While we and millions of others are stopping the spread of coronavirus by staying home, others are going to work, risking putting themselves and those they love in danger of exposure.

Health Care Workers

Food Workers








Delivery People















Goods Transporters

Cleaning Professionals







Sanitation Workers

Public Transportation Workers







Our gratitude toward these front-line professionals not only is well-deserved, but it also helps relieve our stress which suppresses our immune systems. Research shows that gratitude in itself is an immune system booster. Thus, as we honor these workers we also support our own health.

We who are quarantined go out only for groceries, pharmacy needs and banking.

We have been out only one time since the quarantine began, and we learned what our townspeople are doing to minimize risk of infection as they interact with the public. Perhaps you can implement similar measures when you leave your quarantined space:

The Thursday market, a tradition in our Mallorcan town for many decades, was mostly banned, but they made an exception for a few farmers to put up their stands. We greeted our organic farmers, Pili and Isabel, with gratitude. We always look forward to seeing them, but this week we felt ecstatic looking at their gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Their eyes smiled behind their masks, and they gestured with gloved hands to help us learn the new rules, standing on taped lines to keep us “socially distanced” from them and other shoppers. We approached their bounty one person at a time. We thanked them for bringing their harvest to our city.

We then went to the herbolario, a natural food store. There we were met at the door by Carlos, the owner of the shop. There was more tape on the ground to create an orderly and well-spaced line. He asked us what we needed, and he went shopping for us, then brought the items to us to put in our bags. We thanked him for all his service to our city.



Finally, we went to Mercadona, a large grocery store. By now we knew to look for the tape that helped us keep our distance as we approached a masked and gloved employee who cheerfully sprayed down our cart with disinfectant and wished us happy shopping. One by one we filed inside where another employee smiled behind his mask and sprayed our hands with sanitizer, again kindly wishing us well. We thanked them both for being there for us.



Mallorcans are not known for being gregarious. Normally, when you pass another person on the street, you don’t greet one another or even meet one another’s eyes. In quarantine, that has changed. At a minimum, people are nodding to one another. More commonly, they are wishing each other well, asking about family, asking how they are passing the time, sharing a joke and laugh.

It reminds us of when we used to live in Boston and would interact with our neighbors only if we were all out shoveling during a blizzard.

The external threat and disruption of our daily routines causes us to be more connected, more caring with one another.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

George Santayana wrote this phrase in 1905, and his insightful words are often quoted and misquoted.

We are not talking about a distant past here. We are talking about the experiences in countries a few weeks ago and right now.

We began our quarantine 8 days ago, and, as expected, Spain’s death toll continues to rise, as does the death toll in Italy, which quarantined before we did. We need more time apart in order to stop the chain of transmission of this virus.

This virus thrives on complacency, and humans are, by nature, complacent. We think of every reason to continue our habits, to maintain the status quo.

People did not regard the December 2019 experiences in Asia with urgency. That was an error, and a fatal error for many.

We need to act NOW, to quarantine, to close the book on our old way of life, to enter a new chapter, a new world. We wrote about that last week, in a blog that describes HOW to thrive in this new world.

There is a lot of dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric guiding people to avoid or delay the only action that makes sense: to fully quarantine, to practice social distancing for at least a month.

WE have the power to take action if our local, state and federal governments are not creating full quarantine. We can stay home and quarantine ourselves and our families NOW.

If you are one of the workers who cannot quarantine, we honor you and extend our deepest gratitude to you. Because of you, we are safer. Because of you, we do our part and quarantine.

We hope that each locale will create its own expression of gratitude for Los Luchadores Incansables, the Tireless Fighters. In the meanwhile, at 8 o’clock every night, we in Spain proclaim our gratitude to all of you, everywhere on the planet.

Our pledge to Los Luchadores Incansables, the Tireless Fighters

  • We pledge to be good citizens and honor your work and your sacrifice by quarantining well, with gratitude, humor, grace, compassion and kindness.
  • We pledge that, every day at 8pm, we will recognize you by collectively raising our voices in your honor.
  • We pledge to do everything we can to help you have everything you need to do your job well and safely. We know you currently may be hindered by not having enough supplies to keep you safe from infection and enough medical supplies to support your patients who are in grave danger. We will work together, from our quarantined place, to remedy these situations as quickly as we can.

Things that we who are home quarantining can do:

Feel and Show Gratitude and Compassion

  • We work with others to provide our fellow citizens with what they need. The most urgent needs we work on include increasing the supplies of ventilators, personal protective equipment and testing kits
  • We thank those with whom we interact when we buy our food, supplies and medications
  • We thank the teachers and professors who are, with very short notice, converting their curricula from in-person to on-line and helping us homeschool our children
  • We thank for their service those who are cleaning spaces that we use, including public spaces
  • We thank health professionals, therapists and clergy for helping us with our illnesses and worries
  • We thank scientists who are working to develop medications and vaccines
  • We thank leaders who are guiding actions to protect public health
  • We thank those who deliver packages and mail for helping us receive what we need
  • We thank those who transport us, whether by air, sea or ground, for being there for us and helping us get where we need to go
  • We thank for their service police, firefighters, EMTs and others who help keep our communities safe and respond to emergencies
  • We look into the eyes of those with whom we spend time, in person or in videoconference. We ask people how they are, how their families are, and care enough to listen to their answers
  • We proceed through our day believing that everyone is trying their best. We know that everyone is dealing with fears and hardships and we show them understanding
  • We pay bills when we can, as promptly as possible
  • We bang a pot and yell and sing our gratitude at 8pm nightly

Slow Down and Relax

  • We make calls that we have been putting off
  • We read to our kids and ask them to read to us (and put away our phones for that time)
  • We check on neighbors, friends and family, especially if they are quarantining alone
  • We videoconference with friends and share laughs, play games, tell stories
  • We read
  • We watch films and YouTube videos, listen to podcasts
  • We learn new things
  • We watch the sky
  • We go out in nature if we are able
  • We engage in self-care through meditation, practicing mindfulness, Jin Shin Jyutsu
  • We move our bodies mindfully
  • We cook and bake healthful, delicious, whole plant-based foods
  • We laugh, dance and sing

References of interest

Thriving in the Time of Coronavirus, by Kathryn Hayward and David Thomas March 15, 2020

The Virus Can Be Stopped, by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. NYT March 22, 2020

How to Solve the Ventilator Shortage, by Daniel M. Horn NYT March 22, 2020

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming, by Steven Levy, March 22, 2020

How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life, by Wynne Parry, January 1, 2013

“We heard you”: Hospital workers in Spain show thanks for public applause during coronavirus crisis, El Pais March 19, 2020

How South Korea Flattened the Curve, by Max Fisher and 

And for inspiration and fun

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra virtual flash mob

integrative health

Kathryn Hayward, MD co-founded and developed International Integrators because she loves to collaborate with others who share her vision for global Integrative Health. She brings to International Integrators her experience in the practice of conventional medicine as a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and in the practice of Integrative Health. Kathryn marvels at the power of collective, conscious action on the part of like-minded individuals to manifest change, and loves contributing to that action.


David L. Thomas, Jr., JD co-founded and developed International Integrators in concert with his passionate desire to initiate change in the way that we care for ourselves and each other, and the way we interact with and affect our natural environment. He brings his background as an attorney and businessman, and his expertise in nutrition and plant-based cooking and eating, to the collaborative effort to identify, mentor and support leaders in Integrative Health. David holds a BA in Spanish Literature from Haverford College, a JD degree from Georgetown University and a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T.Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies and Cornell University.


  • briana sitler says:

    Thank you both for this wonderful blog. Wishing you and all your fellow Mallorcans health and hope.

  • Magui Block says:

    Thank you! I loved to read you.

  • PALOMA says:

    What a lovely idea, to send us this blog!!Kathryn and David you are probably amazed , and as happy as we are, at the fact that everyone is offering help to others.Here the local response is beautiful. Street by street is taking care of self isolated neighbour’s needs, offering shopping and walking their dogs. Government has made some good employer like gestures to some workers for a limited period of time.
    Hope you got my WhatsApp postcard.
    Please, come to visit when all this is over.Paloma and Dave from Oxford.