How reminiscing in the right way can make you feel better in lockdown
Having been ‘fun-starved’ for so long, it’s only natural to want to look back on good times.
During the first lockdown, lots of people were posting throwback photos as a way of coping with the loss of their independence.
Now, almost a year later, life has become pretty mundane and most of us feel like we are existing rather than living in this third national lockdown.
‘The pandemic is a really extreme event and I think the longer it goes on the more we lose sight of that,’ says chartered psychologist Portia Hickey.
‘As we all start to feel a bit bored and that it’s dragging on, I think there’s a natural tendency to discount or not pay attention to all the really amazing adaptations that people have undertaken.’
In other words, it’s really easy to get bogged down with the negativity and forget how far we’ve all come in the past year.
Portia, who is also co-creator of the Thrive Matters Platform, explains that if we reminisce in the right way, it can actually make us feel a whole lot better about lockdown and uncertainty in general.
And this doesn’t mean looking through old photos or thinking back to the fun times you’ve had with friends. In fact, doing this can have a negative knock-on effect – especially if you’re feeling low.
Portia adds: ‘Human memory is not like a recording device, so the mood that we are in and the state of mind that we are in when we try to recall those memories are really important for determining whether we can recall them, how quickly we can we recall and the emotional tone that we recall them in.
‘It’s probably not a great thing to do if you’re feeling down – your mood when you’re trying to recall a memory really influences the memory.
‘Ironically, I think it’s probably more something to do when you’re in a good emotional state because then you’re more likely to remember the happy memories.
‘Sometimes we find it harder when we are in a low mood to recall happy memories – even when we have a lot of them – as our minds can play tricks on us.’
Portia says that rather than trying to remember fond memories, it’s a good idea to try and remember when you’ve had particular successes and what they’ve been – particularly in the context of the pandemic.
This can actually make us feel a whole lot better.
‘It’s reminiscing with a purpose really,’ she adds.
‘This pandemic, as tough as it has been, has built a lot of people’s resilience. They are still going to have ups and downs but resilience is a bit like a muscle, it’s not like you have it or you don’t – you build it.’
The process of adapting to change that’s completely out of our control builds our resilience – and we’ve all been doing it (rather unconsciously) for the past year.
We’ve adjusted to a new working from home lifestyle, home-schooling, limited social contact, restrictions on freedoms and more – and we’ve all been forced to just crack on with it all.
‘If someone told you two years ago all your meetings are going to be online, you’re going to be working from home, you’re going to be homeschooling kids at the same time and you’re not going to leave the house for two or three months, you’d just go “are you crazy?”’ says Portia.
It might sound simple, but reminiscing about all the changes you’ve successfully made holds real power.
The best way to do this is to analyse and note how you’ve overcome the obstacles the pandemic has thrown at you. And pay attention to the small stuff as well – like the simple fact that we’ve been stuck inside for the majority of the year and have coped.
She adds: ‘That’s what really accelerates our growth and individuals, psychologically, as we are more likely to remember that we are actually pretty resilient and able to cope with adversity.’
Portia explains if we regularly look back on the times during the pandemic that we’ve adapted to difficult situations, it will help us tackle uncertainty better in future.
She says: ‘When you’re in a situation where something comes out of the blue – say you’re made redundant or your organisation shuts down, your division moves or you get a new boss – all of a sudden when something like that happens in the future your immediate response will be “oh I’ll be OK, I’ve dealt with much worse.”
‘That immediate self-belief will kick in and will help you be more resilient in the future.’
It also might help us feel better about lockdown in general. And while it might not bring an instant mood boost it will contribute to a more positive outlook in the long-term, as the days and weeks go on.
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