Being alone for an extended period of time can be a challenge for anyone. But for seniors, it’s a time that can feel a bit heavier than normal. At Long Island Psychology, we recognize that we are in a new an uncomfortable situation. The following are some ways to maintain your positivity during the pandemic, and if at any point you find you need a bit of extra help, we encourage you to contact our Long Island psychologists to get added support.
How to Improve Happiness and Resilience
- Give Yourself Some Lockdown Goals
Staying home may not be ideal. But it can also be an opportunity. It’s a chance for you to potentially set out and achieve goals for yourself that you otherwise would have less time to do. Whether it’s writing a novel, learning a language, knitting a sweater, or saving the world, you have an opportunity to use this time to achieve goals that both keep you mentally busy and help make your time more productive.
TIP: Consider “SMART Goals.” Used primarily in the business world, SMART goals are specific, measurable, incremental goals that you give to yourself so that you can appreciate your own progress and keep yourself focused.
- Utilize Technology
You may or may not be a “tech” person. Still, many social media websites and phones make it easier than ever to “see” people, using FaceTime (through Apple phones), Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and more. You may not be able to see your friends and family in person, but seeing them over the phone is the next best thing and can help the family feel like it’s together, even when apart.
TIP: Since many people are social distancing, consider reaching out to others that may also be alone, inviting them to enjoy these digital celebrations together or simply to talk on the phone in a way that is “Face to Face.” There are many others that could use a chance to see someone and talk that would likely also appreciate a video call.
- Let Yourself Feel
Everyone has good days and bad days, with or without a pandemic. Some psychologists recommend allowing yourself to notice and feel these emotions, rather than suppress them. There’s a technique known as “mindfulness,” which involves paying attention to how you feel and accepting it without judging yourself. For those feeling sad or alone, accepting those feelings may be an important step towards overcoming them.
- Move When You Can
Sometimes, the emotions we feel about missing out on our family and friends are not because of the pandemic alone, but also the tendency to stay mostly sedentary. Several studies have shown that when we reduce our physical activity, unwanted emotions like anxiety and sadness increase.
In the past, the simple act of getting out of the house to go visit a family member was a way to increase our movement. But without that – especially while social distancing – it’s not uncommon to find yourself staying in roughly the same place for most of the day. If you’re able and it is safe to do so, try to be outside in your yard when you can, go for a stroll, or even walk around your house a bit more. Keeping the blood flowing will help reduce any mental health risks associated with being more sedentary.
TIP: Are you unable to walk around or leave your room? Ask your doctor about any movements or exercise you can do in place to keep your muscles active and your blood flowing.
- Limit Your Negative Media Intake
One of the ways we manage negative emotions is through social interactions. They help us be resilient when we’re feeling down, and act as support when we need to be lifted up. Video calls and other tools can help provide similar interactions, but one way to improve the success of those activities is through “addition by subtraction” – cutting out potentially negative experiences so that you feel more positive.
For example, limit consumption of news, not only on the COVID-19 pandemic but on anything that elicits negative feelings, such as politics and world affairs. You may even find that reducing your time spent watching dramatic TV shows or listening to sad music can help improve positivity. Taking in more positive experiences and cutting out more negative ones makes it easier for other activities to increase your positivity level.
TIP: Staying busy with activities that you enjoy, especially expressive ones like painting or building things, can also create more positive emotions by filling your time with activities that provide a sense of fun and accomplishment.