We have a global hopelessness epidemic, and this is becoming increasingly clear as we see the mass chaos from the coronavirus spreading from fear, panic, and loads of misinformation and uninspired action. It is a perfect example of how leading from negative emotional states leads to increased hopelessness. May we all, for a moment, take a step back and look at what we are ultimately trying to do; stop the spread of the covonavirus, save lives, and protect our health, from a place of hope.
I’ve just written a book, The Biggest Little Book About Hope, where I talk about the Science of Hope in more detail, our work on Hopeful Minds, and what it takes to create, maintain, and grow a Hopeful Mindset. Hope takes a vision plus positive feelings and inspired action. So if our collective vision for the coronavirus is to stop the outbreak and restore the world to health, it is going to take all of us collectively acting from a positive emotional state, and using inspired action to get there. If we act from a fearful place, and refuse to listen to the scientists that know the most about how to responsibly act, we are simply going to make the problem worse.
We’ve seen this already. There is evidence testing helps, yet in the US this science has been ignored, and we didn’t do the tests out of fear of what would happen if the message got out about the number of people that had already contracted the virus. Not testing has only made it worse, as testing has been delayed and people that have had the virus spread it as they went on with life as business as usual, without knowing they had it. So the numbers are now higher, and now there is just more fear. We are acting from a negative emotional state.
We are also ignoring the science about the best safety precaution – hand washing, and are out buying masks and wearing them everywhere, stockpiling them in our houses, creating a shortage in supply for health workers that are on the front lines. The Guardian just did a great piece fact checking a lot of the headlines that are creating misinformation, increasing our arousal state, snowballing our minds into more fear, and ultimately creating more hopeless feelings and situations.
The media then uses headlines that grow the fear daily, and the world continues focusing on this fear, exponentially increasing the fear. The coronovirus is an unfortunate, yet perfect example of the negative impact of not using a Hopeful Mindset. Hope must be applied to all we do.
While there may be little we can do at this point to stop the snowball, there is a lot we can do personally. In fact, it is pretty critical we do so to maintain our own sanity, and not get ourselves further into an anxious or depressed state. As this prolonged state of anxiety leads to negative mental health consequences. And while I personally can’t control the world, I can control myself and my own actions, so that i can be most effective in my service to others.
What are some things you can do to maintain a hopeful mindset as it relates to work and life during this coronavirus? Here are some strategies:
- Feel the fear, but don’t act from fear. Fear is a powerful emotion, it tells us something is amiss. Yet it is also a lower functioning part of our brain, and can lead to uninspired action. So take a minute to honor the fear, write about it if so inspired, and question it. Ask yourself what you are really afraid of, look at what the fear is telling you. Feel it in every sense of your body. Be friendly with it. See where it resides. Honor it. Thank it for informing you. Yet then release it. Don’t let it take hold of you. Feel it exit. Wish it well on it’s way out. And get yourself back to a positive emotional state.
- Use Inspired Actions. When we act from the reptilian part of the brain, we often create bigger problems for ourselves. So once you get familiar about the fear, and have released it, let it inspire you to act. Yet make sure the action is inspired and informed. What are you really afraid of? Who are you listening to? Are they really experts? What media sites are you watching? Are the headlines click-bate fear inciting messages? Think about where and how you get your information. And if the rear is about contacting the virus, what are evidence-based approaches to prevent getting it? If it is that you have the virus, how can you get tested? If it is that a family member that might get it, how might you support them? And the science is now clear. STAY HOME. Stop the exponential spread of the virus. Sometimes, especially in this case, the best action is no action.
- Use reputable sources. I’ve found the World Health Organization has great information about prevention, and the Mental Health Innovation Network has posted a briefing note developed by the Inter Agency Standing Committee Reference Group for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. It summarizes key mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) considerations in relation to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. I also just had an insightful talk with Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Dr. Julian Eaton, and Luis Gallardo about how to address mental health in the current pandemic and infodemic state of the world. It is free and available on Youtube, with additional resources in the comments.
- Practice Happiness Habits. It is times like these, with fear high in our bodies, we neglect self care and habits that make us feel good. The reality is, it is even more important in times like these that we practice our healthy habits and skills daily. Hourly. By the minute. My company The Mood Factory, partnered with Dr. Lombardo to launch a 21 Days to Happiness Course on March 20th, the International Day of Happiness (though you can join anytime). In the course, we send you a quick video every day with one habit to practice that has been shown to impact Happiness, and I connect live daily on Facebook to share. If you have a goal to be happy, you don’t have to do it all today, yet by setting micro goals and practicing daily, you can make your way there. It is based on Neuroplasticity, the brains ability to change continuously throughout an individuals life, with 1 suggested skill to practice daily. You can join for only $25, and we have a code HappinessIsFree for those short on cash. We don’t want finances to be a barrier to happiness during this time.
- Stay Connected to Others. Connections are key to hopeful mindsets, especially when we start getting into challenging times. My company has a Facebook 21 Days to Happiness Group where we are practicing our Happiness skills daily, and sharing with others. It is helpful, and motivating, to see what others are doing to stay healthy and in a positive mindset, and how to move through the negative emotions.
- Pay extra attention to your body. This includes nutrition, exercise, meditation, sleep, kindness, gratitude, and nature during this stressful time. Make your self-care a priority.
- Stay present. We are freaking out about the virus because we are worried about the future, and possibly regretting the past. Yet we know this doesn’t keep us stay hopeful. Watch your mind wandering, exposure to news, and keep track of who you connect with and how you are feeling in that connection. Engage your senses to stay grounded. When you find your anxiety increasing, take a deep, slow inhale and notice what you smell. Get out in nature and feel your feet on the earth. When we get in our head, we are generally unhappy and definitely not hopeful (hope requires positive feelings and inspired actions). Know what you can control, and what you can’t, and leave the rest behind.
- Teach others. I find we learn most by teaching others. Our program, Hopeful Minds, is free and available to all globally and has lesson plans for teaching hope. You can download the curriculum book free, and start teaching your kids today. My book, The Biggest Little Book About Hope, informed by science yet created for the average person is only $4.88 on Kindle and $20.20 for paperback. It takes you through the ‘how to’ of hope, the science, and my personal story. There are also plenty of free online resources. And if you want to maintain a hopeful state, learn about hope and use that knowledge to teach others. Share what we know. Make hope a topic you speak of more than your fear. Give others the tools they need to create their own hopeful mindset. It is possible.
These are just some strategies, and this virus is just one example of how we go from hope to hopelessness in seconds flat. And when we have high levels of hopelessness, we are susceptible to anxiety and depression both individually and collectively. Not to mention violence, addiction, aggression, anxiety and depression. CNN just today showcased the increase in gun buying. This is hopelessness at it’s worst – fear leading to uninspired actions. People are clearly panicked.
The great news is hope is a known protective factor against violence, aggression, anxiety, and depression, and through our work with Hopeful Minds we have found it is teachable. So if we can, for a minute, take a step back and think of how to approach this individually and collectively from a hopeful mindset. Let’s look at how to actually increase societal hope instead of instilling fear leading to uninspired action. If we do this, we have a much better chance at solving our greatest global challenges. And yes, including, but not limited to, the coronavirus.
Thanks for sharing, and helping us spread need for hope. We must act, collectively, now. Find out more about my work, and the projects I care about, at www.kathryngoetzke.com.