The Psychology of Lockdown: Optimism

We’re now 3 weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown and unfortunately it looks to be extended a little further. However, it will end. We will soon be able to look back on this as just a blip in our recent history. Albeit a little battered and bruised economically and socially. Its extremely important to stay optimistic and try to build our habits of optimism. Catch those negative thoughts mid-thought and at least give yourself a positive alternative thought.


Scientific evidence suggests that being optimistic contributes to good mental health and wellbeing is some significant ways, for example:


  • By reducing the sense of helplessness that tends to set in when people feel out of control. Optimism helps to motivate people to take constructive action they otherwise would not bother with when in a pessimistic state. 


  • By believing that bad situations can improve, optimism motivates people to change those bad situations and address life problems early on before they spiral out of control. Optimistic people end up (on average) having to solve fewer difficult life problems than do pessimistic people


  • Optimistic people have the ability to develop friendships and supportive relationships because it motivates people to think that other people will like them. Having friends and social support networks helps reduce people’s risk of mental health issues.


The Power of Positive Expectation


Living in a state of positive expectation simply means always looking on the ‘bright side’. Not always thinking the worst case scenario is about to unfold. Positive expectation is when you are not clinging to any particular result or outcome but are trusting that life will deliver the most positive reality for you on a regular basis. 


Not imposing narrow expectations on any situation, (or person) allows the most positive reality to happen more often. When you are living with this attitude you never feel “let down” because you are not hinging your expectation on anything/anyone specifically but rather your expectation is for overall positivity.


Resilient people tend not to set narrow expectations. If your expectation was for a particular outcome, and you see something completely opposite happening, it makes you feel “let down” or anxious. On the other hand, if you allow yourself to stay in a place of an open positive expectation, and not create any negative scenarios in your mind, you allow your perception of an event/outcome to be far more positive than your mind had anticipated. 


Sometimes what seems negative to the mind is part of the unfolding process towards a more positive reality. So the attitude the resilient person has is to avoid thinking about negative conclusions and stay in a place of positive expectation under all situations.


Avoiding rigid expectations


When you stay in a place of rigid expectations, you not only create a sense of anxiety and helplessness, but they also set you up for negative interpretations of what’s happening. Rigid expectations always come from a place of neediness/lack where you are deluded into believing that you can only feel whole if a certain outcome were to happen.

Some common examples of how the mind creates rigid expectations, and feels anxious and needy as a result, are: 


  • Placing your expectation on “someone” to constantly behave in a manner that’s pleasing to you. This is a rigid expectation because now you are a prisoner to their behavior, and are also placing the burden of your expectations on them (this may cause them to feel suffocated in your presence).


  • Expecting life to provide for you in a manner that you’ve planned out in your mind. Your mind is limited and it can never really know the actual path to your desired reality. It’s fine to plan and follow your inspirations, but don’t create any rigid expectations about how your desired reality will manifest. Allow life to surprise you.


  • Placing some extra-ordinary expectations on a desired reality/experience. A resilient mind is rooted in reality, understanding the ordinariness that’s inherent to life, and finding a sense of beauty in it.


Resilient people stay in positive expectation regardless of their present situation.  It may be challenging for the mind to stay in a place of positive expectation when it finds itself in a “perceived” negative life situation. The mind being a survival machine is bound to come to some negative projections about the situation. 


To train yourself to be more resilient, don’t get into a pattern of reinforcing the negative assumptions of your mind and allow yourself the openness to stay in a place of positive expectation. 


The best attitude to have is to never come to a negative conclusion about any happening, rather just see everything as a step towards a more positive reality. This place of open positive expectation is a powerful state that is an important part of the resilience tool kit. 


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