Another lockdown, another set of restrictions. It’s enough to make you start singing Shannon Noll’s ‘What About Me’ interspersed with ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen, with a good helping of ‘Just Keep Swimming,’ courtesy of Dory from Finding Nemo.
As a resident Melburnian, these songs have all had their time in the spotlight of my mind. So, it got me thinking…with much of our population currently languishing, not flourishing, can Positive Education help, or is it akin to a quartet playing music on a sinking Titanic?
Here’s what science says about the effects of going into lockdown and how Positive Education can be of help.
Being isolated increases feelings of loneliness. This has an effect on both our emotions and health. In fact, loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.
The domain of ‘Positive Relationships’ has always been foundational to the concept of Positive Education. Our vitality and purpose are inherently linked to our connections with others. But how can we maintain this in an age of physical distancing?
- Virtual catchups: Activate the strength of ‘Social Intelligence’. We might not be able to go to cafès but try scheduling a virtual coffee with a different friend every week. If your friends are all in lockdown as well, it can be hard to find something to talk about! Try thinking of a few different themes beforehand or use our PEEC Conversation Cards to inspire some meaningful conversations.
- Play games: Draw upon your strength of ‘Humour and Playfulness’ and join an online trivia game with your friends or use the ‘Houseparty’ app. You could even spend a Saturday night playing a rousing game of Zoom Charades or Pictionary!
- Host a Netflix party: The only thing better than binge-watching a series is watching it with a bestie. Pick an old classic, make your own popcorn and use your strength of ‘Love’ to spend time with someone who means a lot to you.
- Join a book club: Many books clubs have now gone virtual. Activate your strength of ‘Perspective’ as you find a meetup that matches your demographic or literary interests, and share ideas and connect with some new people!
We’ve all heard that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ but whilst in lockdown, those Corona snacks start looking mighty tempting. We also know that athletes who are injured and unable to participate in physical exercise sometimes experience an emotional upheaval as they’re no longer able to engage with the coping mechanism that helped them to cope with difficult feelings.
In terms of Positive Education, the Positive Health domain is about understanding the connection between physical and psychological health, including the importance of looking after yourself in terms of nutrition, sleep, exercise and energy management. We might be more limited in terms of what we can do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something.
- Virtual fitness: From free yoga classes on YouTube to weekly adult ballet lessons, there are an abundance of resources available when it comes to staying fit at home – and you often don’t even need any equipment. Need some accountability? Activate the strength of ‘Leadership’ and set a Zoom date with a friend to complete a workout at the same time. Want some coaching? Join a local gym offering online classes and coaching, such as F45.
- Get outside: Make the most of your hour of outdoor activity by downloading the Couch to 5km app or download some great podcasts to list to on your morning walk. Research show the benefits of being in nature for at least 20 minutes a day, so us your strength of ‘Zest’ and get outside whenever you can. Click the following link to listen to our new Character Strengths podcast!
- Set some goals: Sometimes our self-compassion can stray into self-pity – so step away from the snacks and embrace the strength of ‘Self-control’ and try to do a ‘Dry July’ in August or make it a ‘September to Remember’ by banning yourself from eating junk food. Good food = good mood.
- Try mindfulness: There are many great apps with free mindfulness content. Try setting a goal to engage in a brief mindfulness practice or guided meditation every day for the next week and see how you feel. You might even use activate the strength of ‘Spirituality’ in the process.
Try Something New
Embarking on a new venture when life already feels tough might seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be something huge. Various trends such as making your own sourdough and baking banana bread have already gone ‘viral’.
Positive Education research has proven the benefits of striving for and achieving meaningful outcomes, as well as the benefits of exploring new experiences and possibilities. We also know that we can improve our wellbeing by using our character strengths in new and different ways. How could you activate your strengths to learn something new?
- Sip and Paint: A number of businesses have pivoted, making their weekly art classes accessible online. They deliver the supplies to your door, send you a Zoom link and you engage in the live art class alongside other participants. Not keen on a class? Then buy one of the many paint-by-numbers kits that are having a resurgence in popularity. Activate the strength of ‘Open-mindedness’, let go of any perfectionist tendencies and make something truly abstract!
- Make some pottery: Watch ‘Ghost’ and get inspired to make your own fantastic creation. Companies can deliver a basic pottery kit to your door and pick up your crafty clay creation is later on for firing. By using your character strength of ‘Creativity’, you’ll give your wellbeing a boost!
- Learn to cook: With many restaurants now unable to welcome guests in-house, some are now delivering meal kits to your door and sending you a link to a cooking class. Draw upon the character strength of ‘Love of Learning’ to try learning about a new cuisine.
- Start a course: Want to upskill or learn something new? Draw upon your strength of ‘Curiosity’ and start an online course, or even one of our online workshops!
Do Some Good
When times are tough and we feel constrained, there is a temptation to turn our focus ‘inward’; however, research tells us than in order to boost our wellbeing, we should be doing the opposite.
In terms of Positive Education, the domain of Positive Purpose not only involves understanding, trusting in and serving something greater than the self, but also consciously engaging in activities for the benefit of others. Research shows that believing in and serving something greater than the self is an imperative to our general wellbeing.
- Make a donation: Times are particularly tough for some. Try activating your strength of ‘Fairness’ to ensure other people get a fair go. Share what you can spare by purchasing some groceries for a local food bank.
- Reach out to others: Caring for others doesn’t have to involve money. Make sure you check in with friends who are struggling or facing difficult circumstances. Activate your strength of ‘Kindness’ and reach out to those in your circle who need some support.
- Be the light: Activate your strength of ‘Gratitude’ and tell others how much you appreciate their efforts. Whether it’s writing a kind email to your child’s teacher, placing a sign of support in your front yard for health workers or donating a pizza delivery to a local hospital, helping others feel appreciated is a sure-fire way to spur them on and while also giving you a boost as well.
- Write a letter: With many residents in aged care facilities feeling more isolated than ever before, now is a great time to make a pen pal. Draw upon your strength of ‘Hope’ and try writing a letter to an elderly person – if you’re not sure what to write our PEEC at Home guide might be of help.
So…can Positive Education help a world that is languishing? In one word – yes.
We don’t have to do everything but it’s important to do something. When all this is over, we’re going to be able to look back at this time in our lives and be so glad that we never gave up.
Aimee Bloom is the Product Manager at the Institute of Positive Education. She is responsible for crafting the Institute's Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC) from ELC – 12. An experienced teacher and writer since 2005, Aimee has taught in both primary and secondary contexts, and has written content for a variety of government and non-government agencies. She is passionate about supporting teachers and ensuring the wellbeing of children, both in our schools and around the globe.
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Those PEEC Conversation Cards are a great resource, thank you!