During the pandemic, we have come to appreciate the important of moments – times that bring us joy or peace or mark some milestone, like the experience of getting vaccinated or the announcement of the loosening of mask mandates… or even something unrelated to COVID!
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a large toll on our mental health. 45% of respondents in one study said their emotional and mental health declined during this time (I’d say it’s closer to 90%!) In fact, depression and anxiety have emerged as some of the most prevalent conditions to come to the surface among all of us as we finally start to emerge from this awful pandemic.
The Power of Moments
One of my friends from the men’s mastermind group I am in recommended a book to me called The Power of Moments by New York Times bestsellers, Chip and Dan Heath. It was shared with me because of its importance in leadership, but I read it from a clinician’s perspective, and realized how much power the general approach it advocates can have when we are struggling with feeling down or stressed.
I remember learning that our brains our wired to remember bad or dangerous things much stronger than the ability to remember positive experiences. When survival is the priority, we must remember the sounds of danger (the rattle of a snake or the circumstances leading up to an attack), while it is not crucial to our survival to remember how we felt when we watched a sunset with our partner or accomplished a goal we had worked towards. So, we must memorialize these positive events and milestones with ritual and intention – generating memorable moments that stick in our brains.
This last year and a half has made days blend into one another, but finding ways to notice particular joyful moments, celebrate accomplishments and find true connection amongst the endless virtual video calls helps to elevate our lives.
For example, the Heath brothers talk about creating memorable positive moments by elevating it – boost the sensory appeal, raise the stakes and break the script. The next time you have a big task or project, set a deadline (raising the stakes), change what you would ordinarily do on the day you finish it (break the script) and take a moment to celebrate with some music or favorite food (sensory appeal).
I know all of this sounds like human performance rather than my usual health tips, but tools that help mental performance are part of my integrative medicine armamentarium.
Create Moments That Stick
Don’t wait for them to just come along. Doing so can rewire your brain to notice the good as well as the bad. The light at the end of the tunnel is here, and this is a tool to take out of the tunnel with you.
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Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.