Having Gratitude and Optimism Can Be A Healthy Practice in this Latest Covid Surge

It’s been a roller coaster ride, going into over one and a half years since COVID-19 broke out in the US.

A high point came in late December as the FDA approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, later followed by the J&J one-shot vaccine.  Soon after the number of Covid cases dropped in communities and the rollout was seen by many as the beginning of the end to the pandemic.

The decline in infections prompted states and city officials to lax regulations, boosting further a confidence that normalcy was on a fast track.

No more surges, no spikes of Covid to plague our cities and towns with vaccinations finally available – so was the conventional thought.

Then as the rate of vaccinations peaked and added to that plateau, a much more contagious strain of COVID-19 in the delta variant hit the US – we saw yet another, disappointing surge starting in July. Unexpected. Deflating.

Currently in some states and communities, Covid cases are at an all-time high (at rates greater than before vaccinations were available). Hospitalization due to Covid are up once again, pushing hospitals nationwide to near-capacity or full capacity levels.

Human spirit is resilient and adaptable

Perhaps the noticeable difference in this latest surge is a sense of familiarity and positivity.

The pandemic has been around long enough for many to adapt to it and to find a silver lining to the abject conditions brought brought on by COVID-19. Specifically, many are looking to all the things to be grateful for to get them through the day.

Being Thankful
Many people talk about an enhanced appreciation for life, for their families and friends. And it’s not just a feeling, but people say they more frequently express their appreciation to their loved ones.

What people are thankful for runs the gamut – thankful to have a job, for technology like Zoom and other apps that enables visual communication while in quarantine (at this time for those infected and must be in isolation), for their pets that kept them company, for the extra time with families that have produced tighter bonds.

A common reply people say they are thankful for is the obvious, the Covid vaccinations. Even though the vaccines do not protect at 100% those vaccinated from contracting the virus, the vaccines (in breakthrough cases) have been found to be effective against severe symptoms developing that would require hospitalization.

Psychologists are not aware of the full extent Covid-produced trauma will have in the long-term on younger generations, as opposed to adults who are more emotionally mature to deal with trauma.

As adults, perhaps opening up channels of communication with our children, encouraging them to talk about their fears and anxiety, could be healthy.

Taking on a positive outlook of finding a silver lining and being grateful for the good things in life could also teach children to cope better with adversity.

Silver Lining/Optimism Exercise

There is a silver lining exercise developed by researchers at the University of Berkely, California that is said to achieve a healthier balance in life. It wasn’t designed specifically to cope with Covid, but the exercise could be helpful. It only takes 10 minutes.

Four Steps Process:

1. List five things that make you feel like your life is enjoyable, enriching, or worthwhile at this moment. These things can be as general as “liking your job” or as specific as “working on your garden.” The purpose of this first step is to help you shift into a positive state of mind about your life in general.

2. Next, think about the most recent time when something didn’t go your way, or when you felt frustrated, irritated, or upset.

3. In a few sentences, briefly describe the situation in writing.

4. Lastly, list three things that can help you see the bright side of this situation you came up with. For example, if you do not like using a mask when in public is an answer, these could be three ways to look on the bright side of this situation: 1. Wearing a mask will help to stop the spread of the virus and could save lives.  2. You’re fortunate that you did not contract Covid as others. And it could be due to wearing a mask. 3. There will be a time when wearing a mask will not needed.

The results of this exercise was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Participants who completed a set of optimism exercises daily for three weeks reported greater engagement in life and less dysfunctional thinking.  Participants who had a tendency to be pessimistic especially benefited from the exercise and showed fewer depressive symptoms afterward. However, if needed, the exercise could be repeated for best results.

We must endure yet another Covid surge. But besides prevention (what we’re probably very proficient in by now), we can also practice good mental health and be grateful for all the good in life.

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