Research from Stanford is discovering how Americans are sinking into a funk.
However, other research by the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard has been studying ways in which we can still emotionally flourish during these unprecedented times.
I am sharing four of them here.
Gratitude is simply the expression of appreciation for what we have. It is recognizing our value independent of how much money we have.
And it is generated from within us.
It is an affirmation of goodness and warmth and it strengthens relationships. Studies show that specific areas of the brain are involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude. Brain scans of people assigned a task that stimulates expression of gratitude show lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to the future.
So here is an exercise you can use to increase your gratitude.
Take the time once per week to reflect upon five things in your life that you’re grateful for, write these down, and do this for ten weeks
In a randomized trial, those who were assigned to do this had higher levels of gratitude as well as better feelings about life as a whole, fewer physical symptom complaints, and more and better sleep.
Imagining our better selves
Other research has indicated that an exercise consisting of imagining and writing about one’s best possible self actually increases your aspects of well-being.
The exercise consists of something similar to the following: “Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams.”
Now, write down what you imagined!
One can reflect on this ideal life or “YOUR best possible self” with respect to family, A romantic partner, friends, career, health, hobbies, goals, character and so on. Further research is needed, but the evidence from some small randomized trials suggests that such an exercise has positive effects on one’s happiness and life satisfaction, on increasing optimism, and possibly on your health
A number of observational studies have indicated that volunteering is associated with improvements in various aspects of well-being.
In some sense, volunteering is a commitment to repeated acts of kindness, generally directed to an important goal of improving the life of a community. Volunteer organizations can also provide a powerful sense of social connection and a common purpose. Studies have also discovered that those regularly engaged in volunteering tend to be happier, have more social activities, have better physical and mental health, and also live longer.
And finally, acts of kindness
Acts of kindness, helping others, and going out of one’s way to be of assistance to those in need can, of course, increase the well-being of both yourself and of others.
A number of studies suggest that not only do such acts of kindness increase others’ well-being, they also increase one’s own sense of well-being.
Research has discovered that being instructed to carry out several acts of kindness that one would not ordinarily otherwise do each week, over the course of several weeks, can increase one’s happiness and life satisfaction, and make one feel more engaged, less anxious and more connected.
I personally believe the reason for this is that the pandemic is forcing us to look inward, and after a while, your inward sources do dry up. However, there are 7.6 billion people in the world who are all going through what everyone else is going through in this pandemic, and all of us need acts of kindnesses in our lives, especially right now!
And…when it starts with you…and I…everybody wins!
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available online at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.