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‘Why Do We Take Existence for Granted?’ Deepak Chopra on Finding Gratitude During the Coronavirus Pandemic

3 minute read

Doctor and alternative medicine expert Deepak Chopra advocates for practicing gratitude as a way to counteract stress and to stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a TIME 100 Talks interview on Friday with TIME senior editor Haley Sweetland Edwards, Chopra, who’s known for his spiritual approach to wellness, discussed how finding meaning through giving thanks can positively affect both mental and physical health.

“What’s really happening right now is the world is going through what I would call a grieving process,” Chopra says. “Grief is when you lose something that you assumed was normal, that you took for granted. And there are stages of grief; first there’s denial, then there’s anger, then there’s frustration, then there’s helplessness, then there’s resignation, but ultimately, for those of us who want to be aware, there has to be acceptance…because if you don’t, there’s no solution.”

Chopra pointed to how panic and stress leads to inflammation in the body, which in turn, can compromise the immune system. Only by accepting the current situation does Chopra think that we’ll be able to find clarity and peace during these uncertain times.

“Don’t resist, accept what is happening and then ask yourself, ‘What does it mean?’ To me, right now, the meaning is, ‘Why do we take existence for granted?'”

While it might seem difficult to practice radical gratitude during a sobering global health crisis, Chopra makes the case that it’s something everyone can do to feel better. He keeps a daily gratitude journal, where he reflects on what he was grateful for during his day, which can range from the love in his life to the world coming together in a moment of crisis. Combined with movement and conscious emotional work, Chopra says that it can help with managing stress and staying healthy during an admittedly tense time.

“If you practice meditation, mindful awareness, deep breathing, reflective self-inquiry, the way we mentioned, gratitude, a little bit of exercise, anything that enhances mind-body coordination, like yoga or tai chi or chi gong or martial arts — and you can do this all online, by the way, you can do it all on Zoom,” he says. “You will start to counteract the stress, which is as dangerous for morbidity and mortality, as the infection themself. Start by managing your stress and you’ll make better financial decisions, you’ll start to feel better biologically, and then you’ll be able to help others.”

For Chopra, shifting perspective is a way to address the drastic life changes that have come with the coronavirus pandemic, or as he puts it — “every adversity is an opportunity in disguise.” He pointed out that the current state of the world has had a positive effect on many environmental issues and that practices like social distancing are opportunities to connect with ourselves and others in ways we hadn’t considered.

“When we come out of this, I hope that we move collectively in the direction where we don’t see the pandemic as a curse, but as an opportunity to reverse climate change, help sustainability, create a world with more peace, social and economic justice, healthier and happier, and joyful.”

This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields sharing their ideas for navigating the pandemic. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com