With all the tragic happening in the world as a result of the coronavirus, it might seem like an excellent opportunity to talk about being positive. Yet staying positive is a core ingredient in the recipe for successfully coping in a crisis.
Now, more than ever is the time for us to be proactive about creating small moments of happiness in our days. There are a few efficient things you can do to foster positive emotions.
• Savor the small moments: Even during a lockdown, you still have many mini moments to savor—the smell of coffee, the feel of the warm shower on your back, and so on. When you stop to take in these moments, rather than let them rush by on automatic pilot, you are giving your brain a chance to process the pleasure, which boosts your serotonin – the feel-good neurotransmitter that helps elevate your mood and make you feel calm.
• Strengthen your connections: For those of us in family lockdown, now is the opportunity to spend quality time with our loved ones. Take the time to hug your kids or partner, look them in the eyes, have long conversations with them – all of these gestures promote closeness and also boost your oxytocin, which is a hormone that bonds people and also has a calming effect on your body. When your oxytocin levels spike, they tell your body to switch off cortisol, the stress hormone.
• Look for the good in others: These types of crises can bring out both the worst and the best in human nature. I like to think that the best in human life is rising to the coronavirus challenge. Philanthropists are donating money to scientists to find a cure. Doctors and medical staff are working overtime to help sick patients. Neighborhoods are putting together care packages for people who are sleeping rough. People are posting positive messages on social media. Friends from across the globe, reaching out to each other. When we tune into these positive and pro-social aspects of the crisis, we are united in hope.
By tuning into these silver linings, you can potentially change your brain chemistry and build up your energy stores to help you cope with the other aspects of your day that have been made more difficult.
Taking charge of our mental health and capturing the small moments will help as we go further into the unknown. If we can foster positive emotions, we exceed a better outcome in our lives. Positive emotions are a vital resource for us during the coronavirus crisis because they can do several things:
• Increase your resilience: When we experience positive emotions on the back of a stressful event, we bounce back more quickly and have a faster “cardiovascular recovery” time, our heart rate lowers. Our blood pressure stabilizes more quickly when we can be positive.
• Increase your immunity: A study where people were deliberately infected with the influenza virus, and rhinovirus found that those people who had more positive emotions were more likely to fight off the symptoms. People low on positive emotions were 2.9 times more likely to contract a respiratory illness in this study.
• Think more clearly: The way we feel influences the way we think. Positive emotions boost our problem-solving abilities as well as our judgment, decision-making, cognitive flexibility, and creativity. Staying positive will help you and your kids to be better at solving all the little problems that are being thrown our way right now, such as figuring out new technology platforms for working (and schooling) from home.
• Take a daily inventory: Close your day, every day, with a positive acknowledgment of something you accomplished, learned, or are grateful. It will help dilute some of the negativity you’ve absorbed and reminded you that not everything that’s happening right now is terrible or depressing.
• Limit your intake: You could watch 24-hour news channels, listen to dire warnings on the radio, or visit countless websites that can bombard you with the angst of the moment. Instead, choose a single news source and decide how much limited time you’ll spend with it each day. Then stick to your plan.
• Practice random acts of kindness: Leave an envelope with a little gift for the Amazon Fresh delivery person who drops off your supplies outside your door. Or have a coffee delivered to your doorman. Your kindness doesn’t require a monetary outlay. Write an unsolicited book review for a friend of yours who is an author. Comment on a colleague’s LinkedIn post. Send a snail-mail note of appreciation to a friend or colleague. Many in the entire country of Italy broke out in song and applause to honor their healthcare workers. Thank the custodians in your building or workplace for their efforts to keep things safe. Think of those who could benefit from your thoughtfulness and generosity. Then act.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining, and this is your chance to thicken that lining and take charge of your mental health so that you come out of this experience more substantial.
In times of constant negative messaging, you need an antidote so that you can keep your positive attitude and march forward with determination and hope. Be deliberate in activities that are positive, heartwarming, stress-reducing, and laughter-inducing! Together, we’ll get through this.