Judaism: Exercise for Strength Amid the Coronavirus Crisis

Star of David at sunsetWhat gives you strength and resilience during this coronavirus crisis? For many, it’s the bond of loving relationships with family, friends, and community. Maintaining your physical health – proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise (when possible) – combined with other daily self-care techniques like the simple pleasures of a walk outdoors and ongoing acts of kindness (g’milut chasadim ) and generosity (tzedakah) are also powerful tools of resilience.

I want to share a transformative spiritual practice that can increase your strength and resilience during this profoundly challenging time. “Three Blessings” (sometimes known as “What Went Well”) is a practice grounded in Judaism and the science of well-being.

Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania developed “Three Blessings” in the early 2000s. At this time of quarantine and lockdown throughout the world, it is a powerful way to help us step back from the worry, anxiety, fear, and sadness we may be experiencing during this unprecedented time; to step back from all these painful emotions, kindly and lovingly, so that we can cultivate gratitude and be nourished by all the goodness and blessings that still surround us.

Our Jewish tradition guides us to say 100 blessings a day (Talmud Menachot 43b). I imagine that seems like a lot right now – but three blessings a day is certainly doable, and I think you’ll find it comforting and empowering. Simply spend a moment during your day reflecting on three things that went well or that have blessed you in some way.

Here are a few examples:

  • “I‘m thankful to have fresh fruit for breakfast,” or “Thank you, God, for this nourishing and delicious food.”
  • “I’m thankful for the chance to walk around outside this afternoon.”
  • “Thank you, God, that my family is healthy. I’m so grateful for the doctors, nurses, and scientists who are bringing healing to the sick and working around the clock on testing, treatment, and a vaccine for the coronavirus.”
  • “I’m thankful for that phone conversation with my parent(s) today. I’m grateful for that talk with my spouse/partner/friend/sibling. I’m thankful for that joyful, playful activity with my (grand)child today.”

That’s all there is to it!

Research suggests that this simple, Jewishly grounded gratitude practice will increase your well-being and decrease anxiety and sadness because it focuses your attention and awareness on the good in your life. It cultivates emotions like joy, love, hope, awe, and serenity. Judaism calls this spiritual practice hakarat hatov, which literally means “recognizing the good.”

May we and our loved ones recognize what’s good today, even as we acknowledge the very difficult challenges we’re facing now. May we thank God for the many blessings that still make up our lives, blessings that nourish and sustain us.

May God bless you, your loved ones, and our world with health, healing, and wholeness.


Star of David at sunset


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