With millions of people the world over entering isolation to fight against the spread of Coronavirus COVID19, the need for positivity becomes even more critical.
Taking his cue from the seminal works residing at the University of Pennsylvania on Positive Psychology, Mike Buchanan, Founder of Positively Leading - a leading authority in this area - explains how, by advocating the following techniques.
From positive emotion springs happiness. Focusing on positive emotions is more than smiling: it is the ability to remain optimistic and view one’s situation from a constructive perspective. While the Coronavirus world makes optimism a challenge, there are things you can do to stay optimistic:
- Limit your access to social media and news: listen to or read it once a day to keep informed and so that you are not constantly bombarded with bad news – switch off your news feeds, talk radio and email alerts.
- Take time to appreciate your home and those who are with you: write a daily list of three or more things in and around your at home for which you are grateful and share your gratitude with others.
- Take time out to properly enjoy your coffee breaks; now is an excellent opportunity to have proper conversations, face-to-face or remotely – steer the conversation away from Coronavirus or agree at the start that it’s a banned topic.
- Share the joy and satisfaction of others in your home express in their work and play.
- Take a new perspective on daily tasks such as cooking and look for the joy in spending time preparing something, however simple, for others and yourself.
Isolation from others makes engagement even more critical: with those that remain or can be contacted electronically or with your activities. High engagement activities flood the body with positive hormones that elevate one’s sense of well-being. Athletes, musicians, and others are well experienced in this effect; they call it ‘flow.’ Time flies by as the individual focusses on the task to the exclusion of everything else. In ‘flow,’ we find engagement, calmness, focus, and joy. You, too, can enjoy flow in your home-based work and reduced social activities. For instance, you might find ‘flow’ in:
- Writing a report or proposal by excluding other distractions.
- Giving yourself time during the day to read some research or that informative book you have by your bedside.
- Listening deeply to others about their lives to connect with them; your family or friends over social media; try listening for ten minutes or more without interrupting – what have you’re learned about them and yourself?
- Exercising, singing, or playing your instrument – giving proper time to these activities allows you to experience focus, calmness, and satisfaction.
All these activities and more stretch our intelligence, skills, and emotional capabilities.
Relationships and social connections are crucial to meaning and purpose in our lives. We thrive on strong interactions with others that promote strong emotional reactions such as love and intimate friendship. While many of us are used to interconnections at work and home taking place face to face, our isolation does not need to mean that our relationships need to suffer, but we need to think about how to re-configure them. Now is the time to nurture relationships at home and take a watchful eye on others in your neighborhood who may not have secure connections via social media, such as the elderly. Kindness should come to the fore in all our relationships. Our physical isolation does not need to mean we are emotionally isolated, while the Coronavirus pandemic plays out across the world. If we know we belong to a group, it helps us feel safe and valued. Great relationships are based on identifying and understanding the other person: such intimacy is the source of joy that we all seek and need. You might try to elevate the privacy you with others have by:
- Approaching your neighbor, perhaps over the phone or at a safe distance, to enquire about how they are getting on and what help they might appreciate, then listen and act.
- Taking time to speak with your work colleagues about how they are coping with working from home, then listen.
- Setting aside time to do the same with your partner or children; listen.
Listening deeply means seeking to understand the emotions and feelings which the person is expressing. If this is not something you normally do (because you are too busy thinking about your response to what they are saying or your own emotional reaction), then you have a golden opportunity to increase your sense of joy as your relationships grow.
Coronavirus has forced many individuals and institutions to re-consider their purpose. Purpose provides us with sense, which is a critical ingredient in personal fulfillment. Religion and spirituality provide many people with sense, and so too does ethically based work, raising children, volunteering for a great cause, and expressing ourselves creatively. Typically, people find pleasure in possessions, but they do not find meaning; meaning is more profound and emotional. Whether you work in an office or, now, at home, think of what you spend most of your time doing. What does that activity provide you with? You might like to expand activities that reinforce your sense of purpose and provide you with meaning. You might try using some of your time to:
- Explore your purpose, write it down, refine it, and, when you are ready, share it with others – this gives a powerful driver to your goals. “Mine is simply to enable the people around me to flourish – it’s high-minded and non-specific because that suits me, but it might not suit you,” says Mike.
- Once you have a sense of your purpose (this might take longer than the Coronavirus epidemic will provide), try mapping out, in your mind, or on paper, how your current approach to life meets your purpose. Which activities and relationships support your mission, and which do not? You now have your very own personal improvement plan.
A sense of accomplishment is an essential aspect of positive living, flourishing, and happiness, which is why bucket lists are increasingly common. Whatever your circumstances, accomplishments remind us that we have control over our lives. Such achievements do not need to be grand to provide this reminder of control. While in isolation, you should make realistic goals that can be achieved. You might try:
- An exercise regime that gets you up from your home office desk and in fresh air for a least 10 minutes in every hour.
- Cooking a meal from scratch from the ingredients you have.
- Handwriting (not email, text, or other social media) a letter expressing your thanks to someone from your past who helped you when you needed it – imagine how they will feel reading it.
- Finally, having that conversation with your boss about your aspirations in work and seeking their support.
- Telling those dear to you that you love them. – come on; you can do it more than you currently do, and now is a perfect opportunity.
I'm a Henley Business School Professor writing expert commentary on global affairs - my apolitical leaning is evidence-based and televised on BBC, Bloomberg, and Sky News broadcasts - cited by legislators and journalists the world over. I've authored seminal papers in Harvard Business Review and bestsellers shortlisted for Book of the Year prizes. My third title, forthcoming this fall with Bloomsbury, investigates the terminal influence of hubris on executives - explicating the downfall of Epstein, Weinstein and Ghosn among others.
This article was first published on Forbes.com