Psychological Virtues linked with COVID-19 Adversity

One of the modern schools of Psychology the humanistic perspective emphasizes happiness, wellbeing, and positivity. The world at present is hurt and experiencing global grief, due to loss of lives, loss of a job, and economic crisis, all because of COVID 19. People have become anxious, fearful, and stressed, but we need to flourish during these challenging times. The branch of Positive Psychology that emerged from the humanistic perspective is the scientific and applied approach that uncovers people’s strengths and promotes their positive functioning. (Seligman, 2006)

The practitioners in the fieldwork towards helping people identify and understand their strengths and virtues so that we can live happier and more productive lives. A strength is a capacity for feeling, thinking, and behaving in a way that allows optimal functioning in the pursuit of valued outcomes. (Linley & Harrington, 2006). There are 24 strengths organized under 6 virtues. (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). 

I. Wisdom 

(Cognitive strength)

II. Courage 

(Emotional strength)

III. Humanity 

(Interpersonal strength)

1. Creativity 

2. Curiosity 

3. Love and learning 

4. Judgment

5. Perspective 

1. Bravery

2. Perseverance

3. Honesty

4. Vitality 

1. Love

2. Kindness

3. Social intelligence 

IV. Temperance 

(Strength of self)

V. Justice 

(Community strength) 

VI. Transcendence 

(Strength of spirit)

1. Forgiveness

2. Humility 

3. Prudence 

4. Self –regulation 

1. Fairness

2. Leadership

3. Teamwork 

1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence 

2. Gratitude 

3. Humor

4. Spirituality

5. Hope  

In this article, I would like to explain with a few examples the link between 24 strengths and the pandemic COVID 19.

I. WISDOM (COGNITIVE STRENGTH)

  1. Creativity: Novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things 

The crisis of COVID has not stopped us from being creative and innovative. Be it coming up with novel varieties of face shields to shifting online totally. The pandemic has inspired organizations, education centers, worship homes, and fashion world to go digital, many countries have launched safety apps, the viral video circulating in social media wherein the neighbors in Italy coming with innovative ways of having wine party and also in Spain “Homage through Jazz” as a tribute to frontline worker fighting against COVID. 

  1. Curiosity: Exploring and discovering 

The outbreak of the new virus made experts explore the outbreak back to its source, the mode of transmission, the type of animal the virus originated from, researchers are still trying to map and understand the symptoms of COVID. Curious to know more about the disease, people searching for COVID symptoms, immunity-boosting foods, protection methods, and treatment modes online has increased.  

  1. Love and learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge

Many people to keep up their motivated spirits are encouraged to learn new skills via e-learning platforms. A lot of online services are offering short and free online courses to refresh our minds. Owing to the lockdown, people learned basic cooking skills, traffic-free roads helped novice learners opportunity to learn cycling and driving. A relatively free time, encouraged a few of us to learn a new language, technology, and musical instruments. Children are also engaged through online summer camps, quarantine quizzes, and competitions. 

  1. Judgment: Weighing all evidence fairly 

Having good judgment involves seeing the situation from all possible aspects plus selecting the most important things to focus on during this pandemic situation. This period draws attention to Phronesis as a form of practical wisdom focusing on scientific knowledge to develop, be it a leader, medical practitioner, tutor, or any other profession for that matter. This helps all of us to weigh the goals, choices, facts, ideas, and opinions more fairly with evidences. We use our judgment strength when we focus on facts rather than on myths and scary media news. 

  1. Perspective: Having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and other people

Perspective involves having a big picture in mind regarding issues and future scope. Perspective strength during COVID involves having information about new cases in our locality, following advice by medical practitioners, community activists, and by the government, stories from people recovered from the disease. This helps us see the broader view of what is most relevant for me and my family at this moment in time.

II. COURAGE (EMOTIONAL STRENGTH)

  1. Bravery: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain

Bravery helps us to be tolerant of vulnerability and help form close relationships. We all need to show the ordinary courage when the extraordinary selfless courage and bravery is shown by frontline physicians, nurses, other medical personnel, police personnel, journalists risking their health without breaks and resources to help us, especially during these difficult times. Though it may be were the medical doctors despite mob pelting stones on them returned to the spot very next day to screen people for the disease or the Maharashtra lady cop depicting her act of bravery by cremating unclaimed bodies. 

  1. Perseverance: Persisting in a course of action despite obstacles

Pope Francis and the Tibetan leader urged the global community to combat the disease through hope, courage, and perseverance. The strength to be built by all of us mainly because of economic problems at its impact on our family. Restaurant owners, street vendors, trade of entertainment, travel agencies, and industry sectors, must establish plans to take action and move on despite these obstacles. The challenges and struggles faced by migrant laborers have evolved in them a new order of perseverance. 

  1. Honesty: Speaking the truth but more broadly genuinely presenting oneself and acting in a sincere way

During this time of dilemma, everyone wishes to be compassionate and show fidelity. These virtues do not come one at a time instead reflect the personality dispositions in combination with honesty, bravery, courage, humility, and so on. Honesty is being truthful and it builds trust, so better reveal proper facts about the pandemic than myths about it.

  1. Vitality: Approaching life with excitement and energy

As quoted by Ann Wigmore “Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy, and spirit you possess or takes away from it”.  It’s very important to boost our physical and mental energy by involving self and motivating others in different ways through exercising, avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, good sleep, and immunity-boosting food, prayer, yoga, and meditation.

III. HUMANITY (INTERPERSONAL STRENGTH)

  1. Love: Valuing close relations with others

This period of the challenge has magnified our family bonding. All most everyone got a chance to rekindle love by spending time together through playing indoor games, chatting online, and most importantly reconnecting back with one’s family and friends. 

  1. Kindness: Doing favors and good deeds for others

In response to the coronavirus outbreak mental health foundation announced recently that it was changing the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week (18 – 24 May 2020) from sleep to kindness. Across the country there are several instances of people putting aside all differences and trying to help in various ways like serving meals, distributing food packets, performing last rites, carrying bodies to the cremation ground, many organizations and institutions have donated their buildings, apartments, hotels, halls as quarantine centers. 

  1. Social intelligence: Knowing what to do to fit into different social situations

Socially intelligent people are the ones who are aware of their motives and also of others. It is equivalent to interpersonal intelligence, and some of the professions that need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence are journalists, counselors, religious and political leaders who also deal with the target population during the time of this pandemic. 

IV. TEMPERANCE (STRENGTH OF SELF)

  1. Forgiveness: Forgiving those who have done wrong

We must get over our anger and ego to forgive the one who harmed us. During this social distancing and quarantine, we must be aware of displacing our anger on children, partners, parents, and friends so it’s very important to practice forgiving oneself and our loved ones. Few also opined that the Chinese should not be forgiven for this virus, here one should realize that many Chinese are as many victims of the virus as people in other parts of the world. (Enright, 2020)

  1. Humility: Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves

COVID 19 has shown us that our hubris has made us the target of the disease caused by the unseen virus. This is also the time for us to be humble and kind. The same body, then which was pained with stress, alcohol, and processed foods, now has been humbled and healthier because we do our household chores, cook food, eat immunity-boosting food. WHO Director-General concluded his media briefing on COVID 19 by saying “With solidarity, humility and assuming the best of each other, we can – and will – overcome this together”.

  1. Prudence: Not taking undue risks

Being very cautious about the pandemic we are fearful of touching doorknobs, entering lifts, moving out; this has increased the level of prudence in our society. Frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizers, wearing face masks all are acts of prudence to be safe and prioritize health.

  1. Self-regulation: Controlling one’s appetites and emotions

Though self-regulation is difficult when we are stressed, this pandemic made us aware of self-regulation skills i.e. the ability to control our disruptive impulses and moods which in long run will help us achieve the desired outcome. A self –regulated person is disciplined about habits of health by exercising, eating healthy food, practicing yoga, meditating, and avoiding substance abuse. As a responsible citizen of our country its duty to follow the guidelines issued by the government like following lockdown rules, wearing masks, hand washing, and social distancing. 

V. JUSTICE (COMMUNITY STRENGTH)

  1. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice

The pandemic has created havoc irrespective of age, gender, class, culture, and nationality. Treating everyone based on fairness and justice at this moment is questionable because there is an imbalance between supply and demand for medical resources. Rationing these resources has started in many countries like providing ventilators to patients who can benefit the most from it, treatment priority to people who are likely to recover than those who are unlikely to recover, removing a patient from a ventilator or an ICU bed to provide it to others in need and further if this curve of a pandemic continues then people may be treated based on lottery method or first come first served. PPE, ventilators, and other essential resources should first reach the front-line workers and other caring COVID-19 patients. Change is what was considered unjust then is considered fair and just now. 

  1. Leadership: Organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.

In dealing with COVID 19, many leaders with the humane approach strictly followed the advice given by medical experts and took draconian measures to control the spread of the virus by lockdown, sealing the nation borders, travel restrictions, free testing facilities, social distancing, and free shelter homes for migrants. Few of the leaders are working on re-energizing the global economy. 

  1. Teamwork: Working well as a member of a group or team

Thanks to the current technology that helped us communicate and work with our team of colleagues and maintain the team spirit as before. Apart from this many volunteers have formed teams at the time of this disaster and reached out to help people in need. Various organizations and NGO’s provide food for homeless, distribute food packets for migrants and daily wage laborers, and have sheltered stranded people. In one of the instances in Kolar, Karnataka two COVID-19 warrior brothers have sold their property worth 25 lakhs and with the team of 15 members helped lockdown hit families by starting a community kitchen, distributing hand sanitizers and face mask and also supplying food essentials to the poor.  

VI. TRANSCENDENCE (STRENGTH OF SPIRIT)

  1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence: Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life

The strength of appreciation of beauty and excellence focuses on three types of goodness. All this helps us increase joy and meaning in life.

  1. Physical beauty: Mother Nature has gained its lost glory and beauty during this pandemic due to lockdown. Clean water, clear skies, and traffic-free roads healed the earth as never before. This improvement in nature, made us believe that the planet earth can be saved.  
  2. Exceptional skill/ talent: Many of us got time to get back to our old hobbies like painting, sketching, reading, and cooking thus energizing and inspiring admiration. It’s worth noticing and appreciating people donating to support the needy during this time. Acknowledging the expertise and praising the work of scientists leads them to be more motivated and continue the effort of researching more on the virus, the disease, and for a suitable intervention. 
  3. Moral goodness: We humans have realized that health is wealth. Our ego, we are the greatest creation has shattered only due to the one unseen virus, we have started valuing and loving our health as well as the health of our dear ones.

2. Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen

COVID 19 is a catastrophe but it’s important to thank the medical teams for their self-sacrifice service, the law enforcing officers working to keep our community safe, teachers for educating students virtually, government for launching safety apps and coming up with guidelines to follow, delivery personnel’s for delivering food, medicines and necessary commodities, the cleaners and drivers for their service, religious homes for rendering online services, and our family for love and support. Gratitude helps protect our mental health and increase wellbeing. 

  1. Humor: Bringing smiles to other people

Humor and laugh are good coping skills. Both strengthen our immune system, reduce cortisol, and increases our endorphin levels. Playing with pets, watching comedy shows and funny memes, reading and sharing jokes, chatting with kids and friends, recalling old jovial episodes in life, playing games is what we need to deal with the fear, anxiety, and grief we are undergoing due to this pandemic. 

  1. Spirituality: Having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort

During this period of uncertainty, it is essential to build the essence of spiritual health, knowingly or unknowingly we are finding inner peace and joy through prayer, meditation, deep breathing, giving service, appreciating others, thanking, and also taking care of our body.  Spirituality though it means different things to different people, higher levels of spirituality have been linked with compassion, strengthened relationships, and improved self-esteem. 

  1. Hope: Believing that a good future is something that can be brought about

When doom is celebrating at this moment, its hope that drives us to better survival. Some examples showing a ray of hope include, like in India patients recovering well and protective equipment’s being manufactured. Few countries researching the combination of drugs while some on developing a new vaccine. With this optimistic state of mind, we all will hope for positive outcomes in the future. 

To conclude with global solidarity, house to house active case finding, and continued scientific research on intervention, let us aspire to reach the horizon of eradicating the coronavirus. 

Reference:

  1. Lopez, S.J (2008). Positive Psychology: Exploring the best in people, Volume 1, discovering human strengths. London: Praeger publishers 

Author: Dr. DEEPA MARINA RASQUINHA is presently employed as an Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, Manipal College of Health Profession (MCHP), Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Received Ph.D. in Psychology from Mangalore University for working in the area of Gerontology.

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