The busy treadmill we were all on, while juggling the many plates of responsibility and expectation has slowed or even stopped for most and we have been left unsure of how to step into this new world. We can navigate this together through finding meaning and sharing stories while being compassionate to others.

So, before writing this blog, I was reminded of an old book I had read many years ago and felt compelled to re-read it, I started with a story. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl he shared several now famous quotes that can speak to us while we are in a state of change “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom and to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. From his time on the concentration camps, we learnt from Victor that we have the freedom to choose how we see our unique and current set of circumstances which we are all faced with and how we perceive what’s happening in the world around us. Many of my current and past clients often hear me say, we each have an opportunity to choose and narrate this chapter of our story and write our own history. What would be write if we had the chance? What would we want to tell others of our experiences?

Victor’s story included some descriptions of the trauma he was exposed to, but he mostly wanted to share his story of going deeper and finding meaning in the most challenging of circumstances. If I was to guess some of his strengths and values, they would have certainly included gratitude, family, curiosity and courage. So, what else can we learn from his story so that we can adapt and flourish in our changing world and landscape. I’m sure to some this seems difficult to reconcile when people are suffering and prior to this change most people spent their time pursuing the quest of avoiding suffering and pain in many ways such as through buying things, seeking external happiness, numbing through use of alcohol and other means. What if true happiness lies within each of us and what if we have an opportunity to look within while the treadmill has slowed and find the calmness and clarity from that space. So, this blog isn’t about a quick fix to happiness while physically distancing or how to look within through mindfulness as this was beautifully blogged By Amiee-Jade Pember recently where she shared some thoughtful and practical mindful actions. This blog is more about finding meaning and purpose in uncertainty, learning and holding your core values closely, asking yourself questions to dig deeper and create the story you would like to tell when this chapter is over.

In positive Psychology we describe post traumatic growth and share an understanding that there is a possibility for light and joy from struggle and darkness, we recognize from this perspective that we all have choices about how we see things and the stories we wish tell ourselves. This doesn’t for a moment dismiss the feelings of worry or fear, as it’s ok to feel all the feels we experience in our shifting landscape, when going through a crisis as we, are its normal to experience all the emotions.

However, what we know is that when we are overwhelmed with fear or distress and stay too long with those feelings, we lose our capacity to think well, to be creative and our immune system can become compromised. Whereas when we experience more emotions of happiness, we make better decisions are more connected to others and our health improves. From this place of inner calmness more happiness can be created. We can say things to ourselves with curiosity and a compassionate lens, why is fear bigger right now? We don’t try to get rid of it, we make peace with it and hold a space in mind that the feeling will pass. In these moments we use self-validation to self-regulate.  On the other hand if we get caught up in stressful stories we tell ourselves, we can notice this and come back to the stories we want to create. Victor Frankl did this by holding images and stories of his wife in mind, while having hope that he would leave the camps he was held captive, allowing him to feel calmer.

Positive psychology and neuroscience have recognized that there are actions, attitudes and small things we can do to boost our moods over time. Some of these are probably not new to you, but well proven to enhance well-being and to balance out what could be more negativity from worry and fear to a more balanced positive mood state. If you could just add one or more of these into this chapter of your life, your story will also be of greater well-being, just one small behaviour included can make a large difference over time.

  • Ask yourself and others the question such as what is working well? This creates a positive shift and allows us to look for more of what’s going well and a more balanced mood.
  • Discover your values and what matters most to you, doing this can bring clarity and help with decision making and bring about more meaning for the days ahead.
  • With your values discovered, ask the meaning questions like how do I intend to live this value today? For example, if family was a strong value for someone, then how might you share this value with family or act in ways that show your fondness of family? This can help to set meaningful goals through this period and change. You might use this time to cultivate a passion or interest you have had thoughts of such as learning an instrument.
  • Cultivate positive social relationships, even though physical distancing is our new current norm we can use different ways to connect with others to ensure no one experiences loneliness. Engage in your community and create random acts of kindness. I have already observed so much of this happening and it fills my heart with joy and I’m sure the joy in other hearts as they receive the kindness.

When we live closer to our values and find our own personal meaning through this chapter, we will be happier and become more resilient and positively influence others. Be a positive part of someone else’s chapter. I believe that human nature is naturally generous and compassionate. We are all connected to others, through family, friends, community and social media and therefore we all have an opportunity to improve another person’s life in some way. A smile, a kind word or action. This is meaning, and could help you grow more positive actions, grow others well-being and your own to adapt and thrive through our changing world.