5 Takeaways from Positive Psychology to Apply Now in the New COVID-19 Normal

Should we grab more toilet paper, or should we listen to Amelia Earhart? Should we be hitting the panic button and hoard more sanitizer? Should we feed our fear or feed our soul? I say we take a cue from Amelia Earhart, who reminds us “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” kindness_gratitude In times of uncertainty and instability, you sometimes see lemming behavior. We are forced to question if everybody’s moving in a direction to take care of themselves, but maybe we should be moving in a different direction? Yes, we live in an individualistic society – “Each man/woman for himself.” We’re clearly seeing that manifest today. I spend a lot of my work life associating with cultures from collectivist societies around the world, where they hold a different worldview, prioritizing the group over the self. You can see the value of the sense of selflessness in striving for unity. Surely, we can experience the benefits of the paradigm shift from going solo to working together as a community to get through this. Dr. Abraham Low, neuropsychiatrist and self-help author, teaches we can heal ourselves by being “Group-minded,” paradoxically it reduces stress by considering everyone involved. We have an opportunity to challenge our strength of character, as the true antidote to the sense of helplessness is to give ourselves a sense of agency and ask what we can do during these times. As Gayle King mentioned, on the CBS Morning show, “The only thing we should be spreading is humor, compassion and help.” Maybe it’s just as simple as:
  • Thanking all those working at the grocery store for their hard work. They are working twice as hard to meet the restocking demands. Many of these workers said to me that no one had ever acknowledged that!
  • Finding our own way to help. Johnny Blue, an Encinitas gentleman, stood out on Encinitas Blvd with a sign that said, “Share your toilet paper.” That prompted an immediate positive response and drivers started dropping off their rolls of toilet paper, so he could share it with those in need! What a contrast!  I also work at UCSD and sadly people are stealing the toilet paper and the soap from the bathrooms. Yikes – what has this come to? Johnny Blue, simply said “I just want to encourage everyone to be better.”
  • Performing random acts of kindness. Now more than ever is the time to consider one.
  • Strike up a conversation with older shoppers who are shopping alone. You’ll be amazed how it may light up their day or you may find out there is a way you can get a chance to help them! Sometimes people say to me I made their day. Wow – and it was so easy.
  • If there are any neighbors, friends or family members who are in need or a feeling especially down or depressed during this uneasy unsettling time – there’s no better time to reach out – even if it’s simply suggesting to go on a walk together. Pick up the phone call or send letter or simply email old photo to someone who could appreciate a simple gesture, a listening ear and a warm heart. Little things do make a difference.
  • Buying gift cards, if you can, from the small business owners whose businesses are threatened.
  • Maybe just sharing an encouraging word to friend or co-worker. That’s free!
  • Send an email or note of appreciation to your doctor and their staff or those in healthcare, acknowledging their sacrifice. Considering that two UCSD health workers were recently diagnosed with COVID-19, I am especially mindful of health workers, as I have several immediate family members on the front lines in healthcare. They place themselves in harm’s way daily and they are working so much harder now while interacting with patients who are on edge and potential vectors of infection.
positive psychology

 Seeking Solutions

As we seek pragmatic solutions to navigate these times, we may want to tap into some of tenets of positive psychology. Founded in 1998, by Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positive psychology focuses on solution-focused interventions offering both treatment and preventative approaches. In the article 19 Best Positive Psychology Interventions + How to Apply Them  by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, a Psychiatric Counselor, it provides a comprehensive review of positive psychology. It includes, “Positive psychology has five key aspects to it:
  • Look at life with optimism.
  • Appreciate the present.
  • Accept and make peace with the past.
  • Be more grateful and forgiving.
  • Look beyond the momentary pleasures and pains of life.”

Need a Mental Health Break?

Seeking relief for cabin fever – step out in the fresh air. Thankfully taking a GPS audio tour is still some safe fun (with appropriate social distancing). You can go solo or with a small group.  Check out our GPS audio tour of La Jolla on TripAdvisor. Need some comic relief? On Netflix, check out Tom Papa or The Bill Murray Stories. Of course, if you haven’t already binged on Schitt’s Creek, you’ll be in for a treat! How do we get through these disorienting times? As Vivian Green reminds us, “Life isn’t about surviving the storm; but how you dance in the rain.” Share your ideas below on how we can support each other through these tough times together. And remember, though we may have to separate with “social distancing” to reduce transmission of this virus, we can take comfort in knowing our selflessness is key to keeping our community safe.

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