Covid-19 and confinement: to preserve mental health it is better to look to the future

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In the UK, researchers from the University of Surrey studied how character traits can influence the way people react.

For almost a year, the world has lived at the rate of the Covid-19 epidemic. Between periods of confinement and moments of freedom, everyone tries to preserve their physical and mental health. A new study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, offers advice on how to face this period of forced isolation with confidence.

To preserve ones well-being, researchers recommend practicing gratitude and looking to the future rather than brooding and brooding over the past. For this study, the first of its kind, researchers at the University of Surrey (UK) investigated the effectiveness of three psychological interventions: nostalgia, gratitude, and the best self.

The influence of character

Researchers have also examined characteristics such as emotion regulation (the ability to respond to and manage an emotional experience) and attachment orientations. They believe that these character traits represent an indicator of how an individual reacts to locks.

To determine the most appropriate response, the researchers worked with 216 participants. Each was assigned to one of the groups and some were included in the control group. Those who practiced a nostalgic approach were asked to think of a sentimental memory in their life that happened before confinement, to thank the participants they were encouraged to list three things that went well in their day and why.

In the third group, participants were invited to think about what they imagined in the future at the moment of deconfinement. Those in the control group were asked to recall the recent plot of a movie they had seen. The participants were then asked about their thoughts and feelings.

The benefits of gratitude

Through their observations, the researchers noted that those who were in the gratitude group reported higher levels of social bonding than the nostalgia followers.

This study also reports that people belonging to the "better me" group of individuals felt more positive emotion than the homesick group. Researchers believe that gratitude and personal attention point to the positive aspects of a persons life.

"All three interventions have been shown to be beneficial for people going through a difficult time in their lives. However, as the blockages continue, people have faced unusual challenges and many have struggled. We have found that looking towards to the future and appreciating the positive in our lives right now is more psychologically beneficial than remembering the past. For our well-being, we must acknowledge what we have rather than regret what we have lost, "says Amelia Dennis, a graduate researcher at the University from Surrey.

Finally, the researchers found that those with low attachment anxiety and those who avoided attachment less were more likely to experience high well-being during confinement.

"The blockages of the past year drastically affected our mental and emotional well-being. Reports of elevated levels of depression and anxiety are concerning because they can negatively affect our mental and physical health. It is important that we understand the psychological techniques that can benefit us the most," concluded Jane Ogden, a professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey.

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