To say that the world has undergone shocking and unimaginable change at the start of this year would be an understatement. No words seem adequate to describe the current global health situation and the extent to which it has repeatedly checkmated many rapid response mechanisms. Not surprisingly, the common thread running through many conversations is whether the glass is half full or half empty.
By and large, world and country leaders, science and health services, and the entire global community, have been drafted into the same team that is trying to understand and give answers to the sacred tenets of journalism - what, where, when, why, and how.
The host of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing and movement restrictions, which were adopted by the world to contain the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic, is visiting many changes on life. In the current environment, the world finds itself challenged to encourage and promote a positive outlook where hopelessness can easily win the day. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I am guided in my writing by Vera Nazarian, who in The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, says, “an optimist is neither naive nor blind to the facts, nor in denial of grim reality. An optimist believes in the optimal usage of all options available, no matter how limited.” Indeed, as Alphonse Karr would advise, the world must choose between “complaining because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoicing because thorns have roses.”
I have inevitably revisited some of my favourite reading for this piece. The former editor of the parenting blog MotherLode, KJ Dell’Antonia, is reassuring when she says that it is still possible to “raise optimistic kids in pessimistic times.” It is my humble suggestion that kids may very well represent communities.
“There are excellent reasons for anyone - nations, businesses, schools - to seek out the optimistic. Optimists are more resilient. They make better entrepreneurs, experience better outcomes, live longer and are more satisfied with their relationships. We live in especially pessimistic times. We are pessimistic about the environment, about the government, and education.”
While the world interrogates the best responses to the Covid-19 challenge, it is important to note that communication strategies have once more come under scrutiny. The Australian Institute of Company Directors for example says the Covid-19 crisis is a hotchpotch of “three pandemics running together…the virus, the panic about the virus and the business, economic and social implications.”
One of the early lessons the world has received from the pandemic is the need to ensure a consistency in science-based messages. One commentator says the global community finds itself trying “to build a plane while flying it.” Societies are thus impatient for honest and responsible communication during the crisis. It makes or breaks them.
Allied to the need for accurate and evidence-based information is a call on everyone to play his or her part in retarding the spread of the pandemic. It has been argued that the most reliable measure of a person’s character is how they treat others.
Accordingly, movement controls and other social distancing measures do not only emphasize the benefits to the individual, but the simultaneous and equally important benefits to society as well. One commentator summarises the greatest need of the times thus: “We need to be antidotes to stress, not the cause.”
American researcher Michelle Gielan makes the everyday observation that “it’s hard to escape the fact that chronic stress is one of the greatest threats to well-being in modern times. Optimists are more likely to seek out and follow advice from someone they trust.”
Gielan says, “optimism does not mean ignoring reality. In our work, we define optimism as the expectation of good things to happen, and the belief that behaviour matters, especially in the face of challenges.”
Gielan encourages people to always celebrate progress, not perfection. This seems to be the message to global communities as they adjust to the various movement restrictions that are in place. While the curtailed movements have produced encouraging results, leaders invariably agree that communities still need to make even greater sacrifices.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, acclaimed author Brene Brown writes that, “understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis.” Remember, the world is building the plane as it flies it.
How can communities nourish and sustain the ideal of optimism? Alice Boyes prescribes a simple character trait for the difficult and often pessimistic Covid-19 times. She believes that every day – every gift of a new day – should be welcomed with gratitude.
“Instead of grabbing your phone first thing to check the headlines or your email, create a media moat (to temporarily render email and adverts traffic invalid), and start your day by listing three things you are grateful for, and why. This two minute daily practice has rewired elderly pessimists to become optimistic after just two weeks.”
2020-04-17 10:23:46 | 3 months ago