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Post-Pandemic Growth – Appreciation of Life

In these extraordinary times, consider if you agree with any of the following statements:

My priorities have changed.

I now know what's important to me in my life.

I value my life and the ones of those dear to me.

I can better appreciate each day.

Today’s post on Appreciation of Life is the fourth part of my Post-Pandemic Growth series, based on the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth. The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory created by pioneer researchers Tedeschi and Calhoun, show “authentic” personal growth in different dimensions including personal strength, relationships and finding meaning. The focus today will be on the domain of Appreciation of Life post-trauma – a greater acknowledgement and value for all things life has to offer, be it large or small, perhaps things, experiences or relationships that were once taken for granted. Undergoing trauma often allows individuals the opportunity to see life as the gift of a second chance and one they often realise should be deeply cherished. Qualitative data shows that a common posttraumatic theme in appreciation of beauty is about noticing things – sunsets, nature, blue skies, relationships and other things in an individual’s life that they simply had not taken the time to appreciate before.

Some of you may know that apart from being a coach, I’m also a postgraduate student, doing my Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. Through my University and other sources during this pandemic many of us mental health practitioners were called upon to do pro bono coaching/therapy work and it has honestly been one of the most fulfilling and meaningful works that I’ve done to date. As I held the space for many and coached multiple people through the crisis, today I want to share one person’s story of growth in this dimension. I have this individual’s permission to share her journey but to protect her identity I’ll use the name, Tina. Tina is an NHS nurse who worked with COVID-19 patients and was assigned to me at the early stages of this pandemic. We met once a week via Zoom and I held the space for her as she shared her lived experience as a critical care nurse caring for sick patients. She expressed her fears, grief, guilt and the turbulent situation she was experiencing both professionally and personally. Almost six weeks into our sessions I started recognising a perceived posttraumatic growth theme of Appreciation of Life when she said to me – “I have really got to take care of myself, my family, my friends. I have learnt that life is short and I really don’t want to mess this up.” Tina’s appreciation for life started showing up in the form of gratitude, she started savouring her coffee breaks with her colleagues, enjoying her bike ride to the hospital, playing football with her sons, choosing to eat slower, appreciating the summer roses and enjoying the sunshine. Traumas that threaten our lives and our way of living can help us appreciate how precious life can be. Most of us have experienced some degree of emotional, psychological or physical aftereffects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Take a moment now to reflect what you appreciate about yourself and your life, as you start moving out of lockdown and into a more normal way of life. What things did you overlook prior to the pandemic? Are there some things in your life now that you could show a greater appreciation for?

Positive Psychology Intervention: During this period of reflection, I want to share a useful positive psychology strengths-based intervention to help you engage with this dimension of growth. This intervention has been adapted from Ryan Niemiec’s book on Character Strengths Intervention. Many of us have gone through life with blinders on, missing the details of life. Using this intervention can help boost appreciation of life in these unusual times.

Steps: Create what researchers refer to as a “beauty log”. Identify and describe three aspects of beauty.

  1. Describe something you felt was beautiful that is from nature.

  2. Describe something you felt was beautiful that is human-made (e.g., arts and crafts).

  3. Describe something you felt was beautiful in human behaviour (e.g., acts of goodness)

Finally, describe the beauty you witnessed by writing a few sentences about it in a journal. Try this exercise for at least a week. You can also use your journal to write about three things you are grateful for every day. Try these interventions, my friends, you may notice that even the smallest joys in life can take on a special meaning. Stay safe and stay strong.

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