Life has been challenging these past few months. We have been experiencing social isolation, worries about financial stability, health, loss of loved ones, our children’s education, and cancellation of significant life events. Many of the activities that bring us joy during difficult times, like travel, sports, theater, concerts, and dining out, have also been put on hold. Furthermore, recent current events have highlighted long-standing issues of racial inequality, leading to further distress.
A homemade lawn sign recently caught my eye. “The most beautiful views come after the toughest climbs.” It got me contemplating about how psychology offers us the concept of positive thinking. This does not imply that we should see the world through rose-colored glasses and ignore the negative aspects of life. However, we can approach challenges with a brighter outlook to help overcome adversity. Psychological research has found that optimism has a strong influence on physical and mental health, as well as on the ability to cope with everyday life.
When you are feeling overwhelmed with the news about COVID-19, here are some ideas to consider:
- Innovative social connections. With the need for more social contact during the stay-at-home orders, people have found new ways to connect. We have been setting up virtual social gatherings through Zoom to interact with friends/family for wine, games, book clubs, or a holiday celebration. While it may not measure up to an in-person get-together, it has the advantage of including people from far and wide, who might otherwise miss the opportunity. Immediate families benefit from more time to spend playing, cooking, exercising, or watching movies together. Walk down the street, and you’ll see families with young children and even teens out for a walk or bike ride together.
- Health improvements. There has been a decrease in other infectious diseases in emergency rooms. For example, there have been fewer pediatric admissions to the hospital for other respiratory illnesses. Physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks in public are working to protect us.
- Positive environmental impact. There has been a dramatic decline in carbon emissions. Various analyses show that emissions this year will fall by 4-8%, between 2-3 billion tons of the warming gas. According to recent data from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), air pollution has been reduced by up to 30%.
- Increased creativity. Businesses have been inspired to become more innovative. Restaurants have increased take-out options with curbside pickups, almost anything can be purchased online, and even distilleries have risen to the challenge, using their alcohol supplies to produce much-needed hand sanitizer. Individuals have also found ways to expand their creativity through painting, writing, cooking, making music, and more.
- New educational opportunities. Virtual learning has also increased. While most students and parents would prefer in-person school, the rise in remote learning opportunities is expansive in both the breadth of courses and the accessibility.
- Homes for abandoned pets. Stuck at home, many people have chosen to get a new pet. Google searches about pet adoption have increased by 335%. Animal shelters have been transformed by the surge of adoptions and fostering, making it challenging even to find an available rescue dog or cat, which is a welcomed problem.
While there will continue to be many challenges ahead, take the time to be grateful for the positive opportunities and growth afforded to us. As aptly noted by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”