One night during dinner, one of my sons wondered “how could have we coped if this lockdown happened at a time when there was no internet?”
Aside from boredom, I imagined more difficulties.
As a 59-year-old, I can tell you that this pandemic is the most worrying thing to have happened to humankind in the past 60 years. It is so big that it caused the cancellation of the Olympics which was previously postponed only by World War I and World War 2.
We cannot be oblivious to all the bad news. The human mind is hardwired to survey the environment looking for danger. That’s how our stone-age ancestors survived the threats from nature and sharp-toothed predators. That’s how we developed what psychologists call the negativity bias.
But continuous worrying may lead to anxiety or depression. The tension of a body in a constant fight or flee mode may result in physical illnesses, too.
An officemate of mine has mentioned that she’s been noticing an abnormal amount of hair fall. Another friend keeps waking up at night. My own daughter mentioned that the worldwide scare has been affecting her mental health. Although she’s not showing any obvious sign, I believe in what experts call a silent depression.
So, even though negativity bias is human nature, we need to offset it with happy thoughts. Psychology Professor Barbara L. Fredrickson advised that we must maintain a positivity ratio of 3:1. In the book Positivity, Dr. Fredrickson noted that negative emotions are more intense. To overcome them, we need to have three positive thoughts for every negative one.
I am hoping that we get such a dose of happiness from social media. Maybe even before checking the news for the day, we should stimulate our happy hormones by looking at the joyful pictures and messages of our loved ones. The ideal is for happy social media content to far outnumber the gloomy ones.
I do my share by posting funny videos, jokes, artworks, and videos of my magic routines, just to remind my friends that life goes on.
One of the brain hormones that boost our happiness is serotonin. Psychologist Alex Korb wrote that one of the effective ways of raising our serotonin is by remembering happy events in our lives. Social media is a good bank for such happy memories. The social media sharing of achievements during the lockdown, for example, a new DIY skill or an artistic piece we have finished, will also help trigger a serotonin burst when we feel good about ourselves.
Psychologist Paul J. Zak reported that 100% of people he tested showed elevated oxytocin levels when they used social media. Oxytocin is the cuddle hormone. It’s the brain chemical that spikes and gives us euphoria when we are in the presence of loved ones or when we’re merely thinking about them.
In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped 700 meters underground. Some of them began to entertain suicidal thoughts. Luckily, their location was pinpointed by rescuers after 17 days. Through a chute, rescue workers delivered magazines, a tv set, a video camera, family messages and other things to keep the miners connected to the bright world outside. All thirty-three survived the 69-day ordeal in the dark and cramped tomb.
From 1914 to 1917, 27 men of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition were marooned in no man’s land near Antarctica. For more than two years in darkness, temperatures from extreme to extreme, and very little food, it was humor, music, and hope that prevented the men from killing one another. They all survived.
Giving people the sense that life goes and things will be okay again soon is the reason why my company continues to air entertainment programs. That’s probably the best thing to know at this time: life goes on.
My daughter decided to help herself by creating a Facebook page in which she collects post-it messages of cheer for everyone going through this period of uncertainty. If we have enough happy thoughts to distract us, this will be a short period of uncertainty.
Boosting Your Serotonin Activity by Alex Korb, Ph.D. in the Psychology Today website
Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning
Leadership Lessons from the Shackleton Expedition by Nancy F. Koehn in the New York Times website
Morale the Key for Chilean Miners in The Guardian website
Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life by Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.
The Top 10 Ways to Boost Good Feelings by Paul J. Zak in the Psychology Today website
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.