How we each experience the current pandemic is largely made up of hyper-individual factors: our personality traits, past experiences, worries, and beliefs. Whether you’re experiencing the situation as positive, negative or neutral, remember that all perspectives are absolutely valid. That said, it can be beneficial for all of us to find ways to connect back to happiness. One major way we can do this is by calling on the evidence-based skills that arise from positive psychology. The PERMA model for example was created by the positive psychologist pioneer Martin Seligman. He suggests that there are five key areas of life – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. When engaged deliberately, they’ll yield subjective happiness in both short-term and long-term thriving.
1. Positive Emotion
This domain is about finding ways to deliberately increase the positive emotions in your life, because negative ones usually take priority, especially now. If we repeatedly expose ourselves to positive emotions, they will become more noticed and automatic over time.
TRY: Reflecting on three things you’re grateful for daily. This is a simple way to induce positive reflections for the things you love, appreciate and feel good about, which in turn can leave lasting feelings of happiness.
This domain is all about finding ‘flow’ (participating in activities that consume your attention in a positive way) like playing sports, reading your favourite genre, learning more about a topic that you enjoy. When we engage ourselves in flow often, we are more likely to sustain a long-term sense of enjoyment.
TRY: An activity that really seems to stop time or fully immerse you in the present moment. This is important, because anxiety often arises through thoughts of the past (i.e. experiences) and future (i.e. worries). What is that flow activity for you?
Investing time and energy into your relationships yields a deeper sense of connection and overall wellbeing. This is something you can do with the people who are closest to you in quarantine (partners, children, roommates) and those who are further away from you over video chat – work colleagues, overseas friends and family.
TRY: Messaging three people right now and let them know that you’re thinking of them during this time. Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing, and when we enhance our sense of connection in times of distress, we’re building up resilience needed to face future uncertainties.
Meaning is all about focusing on the things that bring your life value – whether this is your role in the community, your spirituality, your strengths or your sense of purpose. What do you value most in life?
TRY: Engaging in small activities that leave you feeling fulfilled afterwards – calling a lonely family member, sending a care package, smiling at a stranger. Try to initiate one random act of kindness each day.
Making time to really tune into the big and small wins that happen all throughout your life road. Of course, there will always be setbacks and obstacles, but there will also always be successes that accumulate. When we choose to tune into those, we can tap into the intrinsic satisfaction that accompanies life. Yes, even in times of stress and uncertainty.
TRY: Setting three goals for yourself this week – make them challenging but realistic. Check them off when they’re completed, and write down the feeling you experience afterwards. Connecting emotions to goals can help fuel our motivation, and ultimately, our happiness.
The PERMA model is one way for us to connect back to positivity in current times. It’s important to remember that increasing positivity in your life is not about ignoring negativity – all emotions are valid and worth paying attention to – but instead about finding deliberate ways to balance out the uncomfortable experiences with pleasurable ones. It’s okay to not be okay right now, but it’s also okay to find enjoyment in the now, without guilt. We are all experiencing the current situation in our own unique way, but the above provides us with some tangible tips towards making this quarantine space a more manageable one.