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Find Meaning In The COVID Pandemic: Begin By Helping Others

covid-19 Aug 07, 2020

Recently, after spending more time than I care to admit feeling angry, lonely and oh so sorry for myself because of being isolated from friends and family due to the pandemic, I decided I had better change my way of thinking and feeling and consider how to transform what I was experiencing as personal adversity into greater wisdom and meaning in my life.

I found myself wondering how accurate the claim that life’s difficulties and traumas can actually bring us unexpected benefits, or whether crises will simply threaten our mental health.

Here’s what I learned

According to the Handbook on Post Traumatic Growth, trauma is not only a fact of life, but it’s a way people grow stronger. It’s not the trauma per se that helps you develop into a stronger person. Rather, it’s up to us to choose to be resilient and grow from the pain, or not.

When researching my book on the trauma of divorce, Who Am I Without My Partner?,  I recall being struck by Joseph Bonano’s psychological findings in The Other Side of Sadness on the advantages of being optimistic when we are stressed.  When fueled by a deep-rooted sense that they can move on, Bonano believes that people can “restore the balance in their lives.”

Those insights lead me to ask the question - Can helping others during the Covid pandemic assist us to find greater meaning in life?

The Secret To Happiness Is Helping Others

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. - Napoleon Hill

Have you noticed that in times of crises brought about by natural disasters, for example, humans seem to have an instinctive urge to help?  We have seen countless examples of how their efforts lead to heroic deeds and coordinated efforts to help one another, as in the aftermath of 9-11.

Thinking about the current pandemic and the serious threat it has to us as individuals and to our community, I believe the virus has had a much more far reaching impact than simply creating fear in us.  It has also led to a shared social identity and resolved action. People are volunteering in many different capacities, such as making masks, helping to transport patients and checking in on those in self-isolation. 

Like me, perhaps you are looking for some greater meaningfulness amid the pandemic crisis.  If so, focus on helping others.  Research has shown that helping others is one of the key sources from which humans derive meaningfulness to their lives.

Social Kindness Towards Others During the Global Pandemic

Start by asking yourself “What is my role in this?” Even though you may be stuck at home and feeling helpless, you are not. Consider the following ways of reaching out to others:

  • Pick up the phone, rather than texting people in need of help or human contact. Since we are social creatures, this will be uplifting to them as well as you.
  • Prevent the spread of the disease to others through your own actions – wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face, wear your mask and practice social distancing.  Imagine if everyone did this.
  • Give medical supplies to those in need.
  • Volunteer – contribute to webs of giving and receiving in ways that nine to five jobs cannot.
  • Think about how you can use your professional skills to help others.
  • Do you have resources to donate?
  • Support small businesses.
  • Check on your neighbors.

Conclusions

The Covid pandemic has shaken up our world.  We are questioning much that we understood to be true.  

How we deal with this trauma is up to us: We can choose to be resilient, grow from our pain and find meaning in the struggle, or wait passively to see what will happen.  It’s a matter of perspective.

A sure way of finding new meaning and purpose is to focus on the people you love and the community you live in.

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