Mental Health Awareness Week: What can we do to support our mental health as we continue to navigate the pandemic?

What comes to mind when you think about the mental health impact of COVID-19?

Likely, you will reflect on the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the wellbeing of millions, if not billions, of people around the world. This is only natural given our negativity bias as human beings, and although it’s important that we acknowledge the harmful impact COVID-19 has had on individuals and communities everywhere, as positive psychologists we are also interested in understanding what we can do to remain resilient during such challenging times. This Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to support our own and others’ mental health, and this blog is intended to share some of our ideas.

How can positive psychology help us to support our mental health during the pandemic?

One of the most researched and widely used models of wellbeing is Martin Seligman’s PERMA model. The PERMA model includes five pillars – Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment – that can each be important in supporting our mental health. Here, we share some practical hints and tips for each of us to try out, relating to the five pillars of the PERMA model, that research suggests can support our mental health. These hints and tips have been found in research to be associated with greater wellbeing and resilience.

Positive Emotions
  • Keep a gratitude journal, noting down three things every morning and/or evening to be grateful for
  • Think about which positive emotions you would like to experience more, and come up with some actions to experience these in daily life
  • Spend time in nature; even a short walk in a local park during a lunch break can help
  • Look for opportunities to engage in activities that are enjoyable and absorbing, either at work, in hobbies, or social interactions
  • Consider what strengths we have and look for activities to take part in that allow us to use our strengths e.g. if we have a playful strength, a team sport might offer an opportunity for feeling engaged
  • Think about when we get into ‘the flow state’, where we are so absorbed in the activity that nothing else seems to matter, and try to find a couple of hours each day to focus on this activity alone
  • Take the time to reconnect with a family member, friend, or colleague who we’ve not spoken with in some time
  • When others share good news with us, try to respond in a way that is positive, congratulating them and asking positive questions about their news
  • Support someone else to be at their best, by coaching or mentoring them on a challenge
  • Create a one sentence statement for our job roles, summarising why it is personally meaningful to us
  • Look for opportunities to craft our role, so that you can connect with this sense of meaning and purpose more frequently
  • Remind ourselves each day why it is a privilege to have the position we have in life, both within and beyond work
  • Remember to acknowledge the small accomplishments we make each day, noting them down throughout the day and reflecting if that helps
  • Adopt a growth mindset wherever possible, viewing ourselves and our abilities, strengths and intelligence as developable throughout our lives
  • View feedback as an opportunity for growth and feedback, and seek it out

Working on any one of these pillars, and specifically taking these practical steps, can help to support our mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to stress that the PERMA model is intended to provide a framework that encompasses the things that can make life most worth living, and that some pillars will be more important to certain individuals. We would really encourage everyone to reflect on the five pillars, and think about two or three actions that we can take each day, related to the PERMA model, in order to support our own mental health.