At an organisational level, employers can do a lot to ensure psychological safety and at an individual level, employees can take steps to enhance their wellbeing and build a life of with pleasure, meaning and engagement.
Learning from the pandemic rollercoaster
Working through a global pandemic was a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences both good and bad. You may have developed some positive habits that you want to maintain in a post-pandemic world, or you may be looking forward to connecting socially with your colleagues.
How do you decide what habits to keep and what habits to ditch?
Draw your own personal roller coaster/timeline of the past two years. Consider your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. In order to craft a new way forward, it is critical to build on a foundation of what we know already works.
What worked for you in the last two years? During the dips in your timeline, what strengths did you draw on to navigate those challenges? What was necessary to survive those first few months working from home and what is necessary to thrive going forward?
One way to assess the effectiveness of your daily habits and practices for supporting your wellbeing is to look at the ACTIONS model (Boniwell, 2017). Positive psychology activities are activities that support and cultivate positive feelings, behaviours and thinking.
The ACTIONS are:
Active habits: Physical activities such as yoga, walking, dance, swimming etc;
Calming activities: This includes calming and soothing exercises such as mindfulness, savouring, breathing exercises and meditation
Thinking activities: These types of activities include journaling, gratitude diary and growth mindset exercises and positive thinking
Identity activities: Develop self-awareness through creating a Strengths portfolio, best possible self-exercise and job crafting
Optimising activities: These activities orientate to optimising behaviours and actions through SMART goal setting, Hopeful thinking and setting boundaries
Nourishing interventions: This area places the emphasis on good sleep habits, self-care through nutrition and exercise, engaging with nature and practising self-compassion
Social activities: The value of social connections, developing high-quality social networks, sharing positive experiences and practising empathy.
Which good habits do you want to maintain in your post-pandemic life? Current psychological research has consistently found that social connections, being active and regular practice of gratitude are well evidenced paths to improved wellbeing. Being part of multiple social groups can provide social support and has an extensive range of positive effects, it is protective against stress, it improves physical health and reduces depression, How can you ensure that your daily life includes some social connections? Strong social connections in the workplace has been linked to less stress and greater productivity.
Positive ACTIONS to support your wellbeing this spring;
Active: 30 minutes exercise each day or 3 x10 short walks outside in nature. Plan your daily exercise plan in advance, can you fit in 15 minutes at lunch time? Throw some runners in the boot of the car just in case an opportunity to get some fresh air arises.
Calming: Savouring is the practice of giving your full attention to the current moment or activity. It is far too easy to mindlessly swallow breakfast or rush to the next meeting. Savouring requires us to take a moment of mindfulness and be fully present. You can focus by memory building, take a mental photograph of the event to think about later, focus on your senses, what can you hear, see, smell, touch?
Thinking activities: Three good things is a well evidenced way to build up your ‘positivity muscles’. Each day take some time to think or write about three good things that happened that day. Reflect on what went well today. Did someone let you out at a busy junction? Did the meeting finish early? Did a colleague acknowledge your work?
Identity activities: What are your strengths and how can you use them more in your daily life? If your strength is creativity, could you make a nutritious lunch from new ingredients? Can you lean into your strength of social intelligence and organise a group walk at lunchtime? Setting an intention to use your signature strengths in a new way is a strong and research proven activity. You can connect strengths to moments of happiness and flow, can you think of a situation the last few weeks where you were engaged and absorbed in the task. What strengths were you using in that situation?
Optimising activities: What boundaries are important for you as you return to the workplace and how will you maintain them? Positive visualisation is a useful method to envisage a more fulfilling life. Taking a few moments to actively think about various futures, what would it look like or sound like? In what way would daily life be different? is a very effective technique for ‘trying on’ various paths. Once you have chosen your path, then the work of goal setting can begin.
Nourishing interventions: Our physical state plays a major part in our psychological wellbeing. A good night’s sleep is critical for wellbeing. Set consistent waking and sleeping times. Dim your lights and minimise exposure to blue light from phones or laptops before bedtime. As the summer days get longer, it may be time to invest in black out curtains or blinds.
Social activities: Creating relationships and connecting with people in your life is a well evidenced way to enrich your life. Mixing with like-minded individuals over a shared interest is one strategy and social media can be very helpful for identifying online support groups and special interest groups even if there are not the numbers in your local area for a club or group.
If you want to learn more about how to apply any of these ACTIONS to your life, get in touch with a Positive Psychology Coach for a bespoke programme to support you on your path to a flourishing and fulfilling life.
This blog was written by Dr Clara O'Byrne. You can find more about her work on