Here we are, almost two months into lockdown. The shock of the new has worn off, and instead we are left dealing with the day-in-day-out reality of being at home. I thought I would share three ideas that might help in finding some meaning, acceptance, or even gratitude in the ‘new normal’.
A note: obviously for some this is a time of terrible loss and uncertainty, not of meaning or gratitude; the ideas below are in no way meant to diminish the difficulties people are facing. Whether things are OK or not, it is likely that each day is a series of repetitions and limits. You may find one of the ideas below helpful.
In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character Phil relives the same day over and over again. He goes through many stages with it – confusion, disbelief, anger, despair, self-destruction, selfishness, learning, understanding, and finally acceptance.
It may be that we never again have a chance to try out a day over and over like this, to work out what make us feel different ways, what brings us small pleasures. What is important to us, really, in our day-to-day lives?
Recently life has felt rather like Groundhog Day. I know I wake each day to a day much like the one before. Some days I am calm about it, others less so. And then I get to the end of the day in the knowledge that one more day is done, and one more is to come.
What if, like in the film, there is a point we can get to where we can find meaning in the repetition of the same day? We might not learn a new instrument like Phil does, but we can still find meaning in our days.
Perhaps there is something meditative about having this opportunity to try each day out, again and again. It feels like standing still, yet involves a slow learning process. It may be that we never again have a chance to try out a day over and over like this, to work out what make us feel different ways, what brings us small pleasures, and what doesn’t work for us. We can, after all, always try it another way tomorrow.
What is important to us, really, in our day-to-day lives? And how can we find meaning? It might simply be in taking the time to look at or appreciate the smaller details of life.
What will you miss?
One idea that I have found helpful in reframing each day is to imagine that it is three years from now. When you go back to life as normal, with the coronavirus in the past, what will you miss from the lockdown? An extra hour in bed, time with family, or just having a break from stressful interactions with others? Whatever it is, that is the thing to hold onto now. It is the thing to be grateful for and appreciate every day.
It can be hard to have a sense of purpose at the moment. I have been experimenting with the idea of taking a ‘to do’ list and transforming it into a ‘positive actions list’. Although a ‘to do’ list can help you be more organised, it can also add pressure to the day. Having ‘shoulds’ hanging over you can lead to procastination, or feeling bad about what you haven’t done.
Positive actions are different: they are choices that will make you feel better about yourself or your day. They don’t have to be major things, just whatever makes you have a little glow of satisfaction afterwards. You could take a shower, chat with a friend, tidy up, sit in sunshine. If your mood is low, you can pick one to energise you; if you are feeling a little anxious or on edge you can pick something that will calm you. Having a sense of being able to make your own choices can help counter the feeling that we don’t have much control at the moment, too.
I hope these three ideas can be helpful to you: relish the chance to repeat your days to work out what has value to you; focus on what you will miss once this is all over; and have a list of positive actions you can pick from to help feel better about each day.