The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our very important need right now

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It is August 2020. A year before, it was August 2019. Not very complicated to comprehend, right? But I am pretty sure that the current situation we are in right now was 100% beyond the comprehension of a human mind, exactly a year before.

Yet, here we are.

It was March 11, 2020, when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared that the novel corona-virus (COVID-19) is a global pandemic. It was no more an epidemic or an outbreak because over the past two weeks China saw its number of cases increasing 13 times while the number of countries with cases increased 3 times. The pandemic is not only a health emergency; it’s also a social and economic emergency. Due to the non- pharmaceutical interventions like social distancing people are getting affected to a greater extent due to a sense of isolation. Economies aren’t doing that well- in the month of August UK declared that its economy has suffered its biggest slump in a period of 11 years due to the corona-virus lock down between April and June. The economy of the UK shrank 20.4% in relation to first 3 months of the year 2020. One of the most badly affected industries is Travel and tourism industry.

Times are such that everyone wants to go out and rejuvenate themselves by taking a vacation. Paradoxically that’s the exact thing we can’t do right now. The COVID-19 is jeopardizing our very important need right now.

Want to but Can’t

Every single human being who is alive right now and trying to survive the current times is struggling in his/her unique ways. Everyone wants to take a break. Everyone wants to be able to go outside without bothering about the likelihood of getting infected with the virus. Everyone wants to be able to eliminate the physical distance between us. Everyone wants to be able to take a vacation without giving it a second thought. But it is not possible especially if we want to come alive out of the pandemic, especially if we want to refrain ourselves from worsening the situation. People working from home are dealing with their own kind of struggles- there doesn’t seem to be any fixed working hours. Companies are thinking that since people are at home doing nothing much should be made to work as much as possible. Mental health problems are on the rise. All the healthcare and front line workers are suffering with varied psychological issues including increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, insomnia, etc. It would not be wrong to assert that everyone wants to fulfill a very important need i.e. a vacation to escape from all the stress. Unfortunately, we can’t. As much as we want to we cannot and we shouldn’t. The pandemic is taking a toll on all of us.

Now what?

Nature doesn’t like complying with our conveniences. In life, there are things that we control and the things that we don’t. The pandemic is something which we can’t go back in time and change. It’s here now and its effect on every aspect of our lives is also here. So, there is no point in cribbing about it. It’s out of our hands. But what we do control is how wisely we are responding to the situation by following the guidelines provided by authentic sources and people.

It is true we can’t book a ticket and land on any part of any country (due to health reasons and travel restrictions) in order to rejuvenate ourselves. The methods have now changed, at least for a while. But that shouldn’t mean we can’t have a sense of adventure. We can. All we need is a little shift in our perception.

  1. Make little things count

While all of our big plans are on hold we should be perceptive enough to focus on little things. Being grateful of every little event that is happening every single day can help us seek our own sense of adventure. Call a friend. Ask how he or she is. Go down the memory lane while talking. Revisit all the good memories. Will it be bad enough to call it a little adventure?

2. Take occasional breaks at home only

It is quite plausible to get bored of staying at home most of the time. So, take a break. Promise yourself to work 5 or 6 days a week and give yourself a break for the whole day. Don’t do anything that involves work. Just give yourself some ‘me time’ (I know it sounds easier than done but with practice we can surely get better).

3. Do something you’ve been delaying for a long time

It is not wise and smart to let your brain be completely free because that gives birth to a whole set of new problems. That is why it is advisable to keep ourselves busy (and I don’t mean too busy). So, figure out something you have been delaying for quite a long time and do it (if it can be done at home). That just might compensate for that vacation you had planned.

We, humans, are a lot more resilient than we think. We know how to survive the worst of the situations. We are already surviving the current situation. A lot has been put on hold but it is not permanent. Everything is transitory.

Writing Gratitude Diary for 30 days as a challenge

Picture credits: Bustle

Gratitude and well-being

‘Gratitude’ has become a very common word these days. I see everybody writing or talking about it. In a way it makes me feel good because gratitude has many benefits and seeing people taking it seriously gives me a relief that they will be all right. However, it becomes bothersome when people merely talk about it but never act upon it. Probably it is because they don’t understand it well enough– they think they do but actually they don’t. I just hope I am wrong.

I can speak for myself when it comes to not fully understanding what gratitude is all about. Thankfully life found numerous ways to make me wise. Martin Seligman, a leading psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. Before the emergence of positive psychology, psychology was all about mental illnesses, flaws and shortcomings in people’s personalities. And Professor Seligman changed it. He wanted to promote the idea that we all have strengths within us and to live a happy, satisfied life filled with meaning it is very important that we focus on our strengths and not just weaknesses.

There are many studies on gratitude & well-being. One of the interesting ones is when researchers asked respondents or participants to do one of the three exercises. One group of participants was asked to write down 5 things they were grateful for each week for around 10 weeks. The other group was asked to write things that were negative and they weren’t grateful for (for 10 weeks). The last of the three groups was made to write about neutral events (neither positive nor negative) taking place in their lives for 10 weeks. It was found at the end of 10 weeks that people who took out some time to write gratitude diary continuously recorded being 25% happier than the ones who didn’t.

Sounds interesting, right? Well, it would be better if you also take out some time every day to just reflect upon the things that made you happy and write them down.

Gratitude diary and me

My experience with writing a gratitude diary consecutively for 30 days was a different experience altogether.

  1. Honestly, I dreaded writing gratitude diary. But my commitment surpassed it.

The challenge I undertook to write 3 things I was grateful for during my day wasn’t easy. It was because I didn’t feel writing it at all. Sometimes I was feeling very sleepy that I just wanted to sleep on it. Sometimes my hands couldn’t manage to write properly and I just wanted to write a single word and get done with it. I literally dreaded it. In spite of all the laziness I did it. And I am glad that I did because I was committed to it. When I decided to undertake the challenge I was very much sure that I would not be able to it. But I proved myself wrong. My unwillingness to write few good words that made my day felt short in front of my commitment to stay stick to a 30 day challenge.

2. I was seeking pearls within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments.

There were days when I was sitting on my chair thinking very hard about 3 good things that I was grateful for. All I could think of was negative chain of events, boredom, frustration, helplessness, etc. Such moments made me realize that happiness isn’t always readily available. Many times we have to take some extra efforts to find or create it. Our days get so bad that all we think of is negativity. And that is okay. But not always. A single cup of coffee or tea with your loved ones or even all by yourself is enough to bring a smile on your face. Like I said, you can find pearls deep within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments; if you try hard enough.

Even though writing gratitude diary some days didn’t feel very appealing and I felt very lazy, I know very well (through empirical studies as mentioned above) that it is very crucial. I am not saying that by writing down 3 or 5 things that made you happy before going to bed is going to make you the happiest person on this earth. Trust me, that’s not what I am suggesting. There is no causation but co-relation. What I am saying is that human brain responds to gratitude and by practicing it regularly we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic and thus at least a little bit happier than before.