The New Normal: An Opportunity to get Stronger, Smarter, Kinder and Happier

Twelve short years ago we faced a global recession that changed our sense of wellbeing. What we thought was permanent economic crisis of 2008, soon faded to mild anxiety and finally to obliviousness. While it may seem illogical, a crisis experience can be a gift. Just like the Recession of 2008, the COVID-19 global crises has a surprising positive feature: we are all in this together.  All of a sudden, our pain and fear is shared by many. These critical times give us the opportunity to make positive changes. We need to focus on becoming better by being stronger, smarter, kinder and yes…….happier.

Stronger

COVID-19 has left us with many questions and very few answers.  Not knowing the duration or consequences of this pandemic can be frightening and demoralizing. Significant sectors of society face immediate unemployment. Our sick and infirmed may be increasingly limited to healthcare access. 

How we get stronger is very personal.  It may be the physical effort to seek new employment, emergency financial resource, or self-quarantine or simply embrace a healthier lifestyle. The important message is that no matter how taxing your physical trials become, get strong. Eat, breathe and move with mindfulness.  Perhaps most important, take time to review and celebrate positive change.

Smarter

Mental strength and resilience is equally important. In our busy, pre-COVID-19 lives, we seldom had time to read, study or just ponder. Becoming mentally stronger provides permanent life enhancements.  Taking time to break away from the mindless feed of television and internet helps build our intellectual muscle. Reading a classic novel opens our world in a world of limited global travel. Using Google Scholar to access peer review research on a chosen topic expands our understanding and value.

Kinder

A pandemic is the great equalizer.  A global crisis such as COVID 19 puts us all in the same boat. Having a common challenge gives us the ability to appreciate the trials and tribulations shared by our neighbors. All of a sudden we are able to understand the pain and heartache felt by others.  It is this understanding that builds our compassion. 

Competition of wealth and acquisition loses its importance in times of shared challenge.  Amitai Etzioni examined the downside of consumerism noting the unsatisfying nature of acquisition (2011, p. 788).  This global crisis gives us all the opportunity to question of contentment. Yes, fulfillment can be achieved through simplicity. 

Happier

What makes you happy? Does that package that arrived from Amazon make you happy, and if so, for how long. There is a dark side to happiness that is based on pride, acquisition, and ego (Gruber, J. and Tamir, M., 2011). Mindful happiness based on contentment has longevity. It is a creation of appreciation for our lives and the world we live.

Being mindful requires focus on what is really important: our family, our community, our health and our globe. Contentment comes from sorting out negative thoughts that spring from ego and consumption. Mindfulness promotes satisfaction. In the end, our experience of crisis allows us to step back and recognize what is – and what is not – important.

Conclusion

Every day we have an opportunity to get stronger, smarter, kinder and happier.  The problem is that western civilization has made mindless consumption too easy.  This is not an easy message for those of us who are facing unemployment, mortgage or rent payment on top of illness and concern for loved ones. The empowering concept with a global crisis such as COVID-19, is that we will get through this.  Normal influences such as “keeping up with the Jones” no longer prove important.

Through adversity comes opportunity.  Individually and collectively, we have the ability to come out on the other side much stronger, smarter, kinder and happier.  Use this crisis wisely.      

Etzioni, Amitai. “Politics and Culture in an Age of Austerity.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 27.4 (2014): 389–407.

Etzioni, Amitai. “The New Normal.” Sociological Forum 26.4 (2011): 779–789.

Gruber, J., Mauss, I., & Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspectives on Psychological Science6(3), 222–233. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691611406927

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