How do we find meaning in the new normal?
Text updated on 2020-06-19
In times of uncertainty, finding meaning in your daily actions is a good strategy for managing emotional distress.
The small events of daily life may seem trivial in the crisis we are going through. However, we can relate them to a specific goal and give them meaning. Assigning a goal helps to satisfy our basic psychological needs:
- Autonomy: the need to control life events and act in accordance with one's values;
- Competence: the ability to carry out actions efficiently and successfully;
- The social bond: the ability to interact with others.
The satisfaction of these basic needs strongly predicts the well-being of individuals and their sense of coherence in their lives, especially when actions are altruistic. The complicated (but ultimately beneficial) task is to determine how carrying out a seemingly benign activity is an act that satisfies basic needs.
To do this, we need to break down the purpose of the action and what it involves.
Preparing a meal means knowing how to plan actions, follow a recipe, and implement it. In this activity, you have to be rigorous and patient. Finally, tasting a meal is also about having fun and pleasing the people with whom we share it. What if the meal is missed? Don't worry: it's an opportunity to start over and improve. So many aspects that, once they have been brought to light, give meaning to a simple action.
Identifying the goals of one's actions and their contribution to a coherent set of actions is very beneficial. It gives meaning to what you are doing.
In this way, it is possible to make sense of how we can interact together during the pandemic in a safe manner. Respecting safe distances and barrier gestures is an action both for oneself and for others.
Why for yourself? The virus at any age can have deleterious consequences (cardiac, neurological, respiratory, etc.), it is wiser not to be affected by COVID-19.
Why for the others? Because respecting barrier gestures means limiting the risk of contaminating the people you come into contact with.
Respecting barrier gestures and social distancing means acting against the virus, invisible to our eyes. It does not mean that you are acting against others! Social ties can take other forms during social distancing measures. Innovations to exchange without risk have to be invented, such as the videoconference choir or the dance parties with everyone dancing in their cars. It is up to us to innovate!
Behaviours aimed at well-being and pleasure are more predictive of psychological well-being than those aimed solely at material rewards.Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(1), 22-42. Link to PDF :
Satisfying basic psychological needs means putting meaning behind one's actions and experiences.Martela, F., Ryan, R. M., & Steger, M. F. (2018). Meaningfulness as satisfaction of autonomy, competence, relatedness, and beneficence: Comparing the four satisfactions and positive affect as predictors of meaning in life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(5), 1261-1282. Link to PDF :
The effect of making sense of one's experiences on well-being is strengthened when this is applied to everyday experiences.Hooker, S. A., Masters, K. S., & Park, C. L. (2018). A meaningful life is a healthy life: A conceptual model linking meaning and meaning salience to health. Review of General Psychology, 22(1), 11-24.
A creative solution to allow individuals to dance safely is to organize virtual RAVE type parties.Everybody dance from their cars.