Although psychologists devote much attention to positive thinking, many studies show that it is possible to learn to be positive. Our environment or certain circumstances in life can block positivity or on the contrary – allow it to be expressed through our attitudes, behaviour, worldview and introspection, says Mykolas Romeris University Institute of Educational Sciences and Social Work Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tomas Butvilas.
Positive Thinking During Quarantine – A Possible Mission?
Asked how to learn to think positively, when there are so many unknowns regarding the future and chaos during quarantine, Assoc. Prof. Butvilas says it is necessary to be positive about the day ahead and to try to replace preconceived negative notions with positive ones.
“For example when we try to grumble that „again it‘s Monday....“ we should try to look at the negative situation from a different angle and to remind ourselves that it is another possibility to do something interesting or to devote time to an activity that we have been putting off. This kind of frame of mind helps not only to positively evaluate, but also to accept yourself and others,“ said Assoc. Prof. Butvilas.
According to Assoc. Prof. Butvilas, the unusual situation during quarantine requires a lot of internal effort to deal with yourself and not give way to what is possibly unreasonable anxiety.
"It is never too late to learn how to be positive, but it is not a quick process. For one to change one‘s viewpoint or attitude is no easy matter,“ notes Assoc. Prof. Butvilas.
He often tells his fellow colleagues and students, who have decided to study educational sciences, to ask oneself several times a day how and why certain things are valued and what it means to me?
“People are likely to react to any kind of situation (especially stressful) in several ways: blame only themselves, blame only others; or - present a shade of guilt to oneself as well as the environment – and that is an adequate reaction. It may be difficult to understand that in life there are things which we can control, but there are also things, which do not depend on our efforts. It is important to try to accept them as inevitable and to try to see the instructive meaning, or, a sis customary in social work to say: “experiences are gained that in one way or another strengthen or mature or open new possibilities for us“. I believe that this quarantine period has revealed to each one of us various positive aspects of everyday life, different shades and opportunities“.
Our Decisions Determine Our Mood
According to Butvilas, there exists a myriad of thoughts, feelings and actions, when our thoughts provoke a certain feeling or emotional state, which affects our willingness to do or not do something and then finally at the end of the day, we see the results. „For example, imagine that we have planned a trip outdoors among nature and on the day of the outing, it is raining from early morning. So, we can act in the following manner: think that bad weather has provoked thoughts of „it‘s an awful day, as if on purpose, or – this just always happens to me when I get ready to go out.“ Of course, then I am overwhelmed by emotions such as: anger, disappointment, apathy, and maybe even self-pity.
Therefore, we decide not to do anything, not to communicate with anyone, and lock ourselves inside our home. Or despite bad weather, go on the outing and think what a fun adventure it will be to go out, when it is raining because this will be an interesting experience and present new lessons. Such a thought gives way to uplifting emotions and we take action and at the end of the day, we will be tired, but have had fun and unforgettable experiences. All this illustrates how our personal moods undoubtedly influence further actions, decision-taking and possible results in the existing moment or in the future“.
How do we understand that the right decision was made? “Intuition tells us whether we have made the right decision, rather suggesting the answer to a very important question for us. In addition, many tend to apply different argument algorithms and consider all the pros and cons, but sometimes we rely on that inner voice, regardless of the result, and we are happy with that. Another equally important engine driving us forward is the level of anxiety. It is important that a person, separates which emotions are evident – depressing and confusing or motivating one to take action. If that is difficult to do, then it is worth to look for other alternatives to find the right solution.
Doubts About Your Choice Help You Understand the Meaning
"It is not bad to doubt, because doubts allow you to constantly „measure“ the relevance, meaning, value and impact of the decision taken. However, at this point doubts should not be allowed to take over our rational decision-making process, and, at the same time, feelings“, - said Assoc. Prof. Butvilas. He said it is possible to divide people into several groups according to their decision-making: delayers, doubters, always-in-a-hurry, relying on others, the torturers. "I lectured several students who had doubts about the relevance of their choice of social work programme studies, although only a year was left before graduation. Talking with students, I tried to show them that their choice of studies opens the possibility to delve into different professional areas in the future and to work with different types of individuals. Today one of them is a rather well-known business couch and is happy that he did not give in to doubts that would have closed the door on a successful career. Assoc. Prof. Butvilas notes that it is important for each person to take advantage of opportunities and in the long run to feel the effect that small steps in decision-making can have on life. He said that each opportunity that arises in life is a way of expressing, growing, strengthening, trying and finding.
5 simple steps helping to stay positive and helping to feel better no matter what the circumstances.
• Take a look at the situation from a postive angle – maybe during quarantine we can devote more time to ourselves and loved ones at home or find time to read a favourite book or to go outside for a walk. It is not important how you spend your time – most importantly give meaning to events and occurrences around you. If you look at things around you without making them meaningful to yourself, it becomes extremely difficult to meet the challenges of everyday life.
• Do not be afraid to laugh at yourself, crititicize yourself and make fun of what has happened to you. Of course, you must do that constructively and in moderation. However, don‘t forget that a smile costs nothing, and does not require much effort now – only three taps on a computer keyboard.
• Find time for yourself and enjoy it. Limit the amount of information (which exists and much of which is negative) and thus you will find free time to spend with yourself.
• Think about the end of the existing event and that eventually everything will end sometime. Maybe we will remember with nostalgia some of the more interesting quarantine episodes, for example, when we all acted politely in supermarkets and did not cut into lines, there were fewer traffic jams, we spent more time outside and learned to use untested social/work methods on the Internet etc.
• Do not be afraid to dream. Remember those magical moments of your childhood, when we often dreamed and imagined a world more beautiful than the one we see now. Nevertheless, psychology distinguishes the defense mechanisms of the personality and one of them is - fantasizing – (in a good sense). Therefore – do not be afraid to fantasize a bit, to dream and with a certain magical inclination feel that everything will be decided for the best of people‘s (or your own) benefit. Even Albert Einstein once said that you have to be afraid of people who don‘t dream or fantasize. When we dream, it becomes easier to bear the burden of everyday life. In addition, it doesn‘t cost anything to dream.
Text - Rasa Vilnienė