How are you doing? A question we would not think twice about answering in the past has now become such a deep and loaded question. And when I mean past, I mean two weeks ago. So much has changed for so many of us in such a short period of time that I can’t even get my mind around it all. Where do I even start? From toilet rolls and essentials flying off shelves, to school closures, mandatory work-from home measures, social distancing and National exam cancellations, perhaps for all of us the worst is still yet to come? We will probably see a rise in Covid-19 cases, higher death tolls, stricter distancing measures, mandatory lockdowns and a massive slowdown to our economy that will take forever to recover. Life as we know it has changed and what should we do?
A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had the answers to this. I thought this is simple – I’ve experienced childhood trauma, survived 9/11, battled Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and changed my life around helping people in the mental health space – this is my area of expertise and yet I’m quite lost. If I don’t have the answers and tools yet, how can I help others? Yesterday I met with fellow coaches online and I was so relieved to hear that they too were feeling exactly the same – we are all in the same boat, wrestling to keep our head above water as we continue to meet and coach our clients.
So what can I do to help now? Probably not much but perhaps offer a couple of positive psychology interventions that can make a difference. I'll share two character strengths interventions that could be useful in building your strength and resilience over the next few weeks. What are character strengths? Character strengths are positive traits that are personally fulfilling and core to our being/identity/our doing and behaviour. Most of us don’t even know what our core strengths are, so as a start, it would be useful for you to find out what they are. You can use the VIA test, a free psychologically valid online test that measures your 24 character strengths, available at www.viacharacter.org. The first five strengths that emerge from your test will be your signature strengths – they are positive, personal traits that you all own, celebrate and frequently exercise. Once you have your list of signature strengths, you can try some of these interventions:
Using signature strengths in a new way: As you review your rank-ordered results, select one of your top strengths. Now use that strength in a new and different way for one week. For instance, if one of your top strengths is appreciation of beauty, how could you use that in a new way every week during this crisis? Can you take some time to appreciate the spring flowers and the gorgeous weather we’ve been having; appreciate a piece of art your daughter painted this week? Or if perseverance is a key strength how can you use that strength in a new way this week? Can you use it as you home school your child or set deadlines for yourself as you work from home? One of my signature strengths is perseverance and I use it to get through all my set daily tasks for research and university work, client notes and tasks at home. Have a go this week using one of your top strengths daily and don’t forget to journal your thoughts – what worked, what could have worked better and how you would like to your that strength or another the next week. Research shows that individuals who use signature strengths in new ways experience elevations in happiness and find a decrease in depression for 6 months (Seligman et al. 2005).
Three good things: A perfect intervention to use daily during this time of crisis. This intervention involves counting one’s blessings. When we slow down to look at the details of our life, we begin to understand that it is the little things that matter. This exercise boosts gratitude and takes the “blinders’ off so we can look at life more closely. How does this intervention work? At the end of each day, reflect back on what went well, even though you had a rough day. Write down three things that went well and why they went well. Maintain this as a gratitude journal at least for one week. Research shows that this intervention has significantly boosted happiness in older adults (Proyer et al. 2014a) and decreased negative emotions (Emmons &McCullough, 2003).
Try out these interventions my friends and stay strong. I'll try to write as may posts as possible and keep sharing thoughts and interventions. I also offer free coaching sessions on Fridays, so please get in touch with me if you would like some help during these unprecedented times. Stay safe and stay at home. Sending you all so much love.