It is not an understatement to say, “These are unusual times!” Much of our normal life has been upended, but that’s not to say it’s all bad.
With so much changed or even closed for now or temporarily, this may be one of our best times to learn new ways to develop a range of activities beyond our usual habits in the past. Being aware, while keeping our distance must continue to be our priority during these unprecedented days, weeks, and months.
According to Harvard infectious disease epidemiologist, Julia Marcus, “There’s been a polarization between two purported options of staying home indefinitely versus going back to business as usual. The idea of harm reduction gives us a way of thinking about risk as a continuum and thinking about the middle ground between those two options.
Psychologist Ronald E. Riggio, PhD, identifies ten positive benefits we may discover during these uncertain times. His article in the magazine “Psychology Today” is titled “Best pandemic behavior.” Here are ten actions to emulate.
1. Have fewer expenses by not shopping as much whether online or in person.
2. Eat better and save money by skipping fast-food.
3. Enjoy quality time with family.
4. Catch up on reading and Netflix.
5. Cook more creatively.
6. Spring clean by donating to support good causes.
7. Garden to improve your health as well as your home.
8. Avoid impulse buying.
9. Drive fewer miles.
10. Enjoy more time for exercise.
Positive Psychology, a field of study into human experiences such as optimism, happiness and hope, notes that remote work is becoming mainstream and education may be more affordable as it is more digitized as well.
If a slower pace in today’s fast-moving world seems counter-intuitive, we may find that we notice the small things as we pay more attention with a fresh perspective.
“The International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences” collected data from websites, web blogs, newspapers and reports. The following positive results were observed worldwide.
1. A reduction in traveling led to fewer vehicles on the road and less traffic accidents.
2. The crime rate went down suddenly at first.
3. Air and water pollution decreased, allowing nature to recharge and replenish.
4. Individuals spent more time with their families.
5. Many began to understand the importance of sanitation, hand hygiene, and social distancing.
6. Initially, there was even a short-term depletion in greenhouse gas emissions.
During the early days of the worldwide shutdown, the water in Venice became so clear that the fish could be seen and the water-flow improved.
Tracking positive emotions may help us become more aware and appreciative of positivity currently in our lives. When you are aware of experiencing joy write down as many examples as possible. Choose to focus on simple things as you make your list. Pay attention when you feel joy, satisfaction and appreciation. Focusing on positive emotions helps you make meaning out of chaos. It also may help build resilience and cultivate a problem-solving mindset.
I have enjoyed a simple practice over many years of saving images that I have cut from magazines, flyers that arrive in the mail as well as any colorful photos that would otherwise go in the trash. With no expense other than a little time, I turn them into interesting collages. Recently I started writing in my journal the thoughts that come to mind as I contemplate these pictures and process the experience of collecting them.
Often music works as well as medicine. One of our oldest art forms, it is also one of the most powerful vehicles to brighten an otherwise sad or lonely day. Google Johnny Mathis’ version of the song “Counting our blessings instead of fears” to encourage positivity, an important reminder that many of us need right now.
I wish you and all of your loved ones will have a memorable and meaning filled Thanksgiving this year as we all count our many blessings.
Susan Hendricks leads personal writing groups and workshops approved for CEU credits by the SC Social Work Examiners Board and is an instructor for the Therapeutic Writing Institute online. Read all of her Columbia Star columns at: www.susanhendricks.com/columbia-star-news.