Five Ideas to Keep Negativity from Becoming Normal During Quarantine

Do you identify with the scenario below?

The first few weeks of quarantine, your family was energized. The whole idea was novel; not having to go to work or school was intriguing. You could do your daily routines in your sweats or pajamas. How cool was that?

The next few weeks became monotonous. The novelty of doing life at home evaporated, and everyone was fighting boredom. Everyone was fine, but it was no longer fun. When will this thing be over?

The next several weeks grew into a season where each family member in your home figured out how they handled the isolation, as we all were used to the new normal. We realized this pandemic was a marathon, not a sprint.

The remaining months have been downright difficult. Family annoys us more, we forget what day it is, and our schedules seem to bore us more than help us. Some of us got lazier, as we’d given up disciplines like driving to work or school.

One group of people recently described their current quarantine experience as:

  • Frustrating
  • Lonely
  • Irritating
  • Ambiguous
  • Worn out

When Negative Becomes Normal

Far too often, leaders can fail to lead. I know, because as a leader, I have done the same at times in the past. Our days get away from us, and we neglect to pay attention to the demeanor or attitudes of those around us. We miss it because they’re not doing anything horrible; they’re just meandering. Wandering through the day bored and unintentional. And we must lead our homes and teams through this season. Below are five ideas to get you started.

1. Develop common language to redirect bad attitudes.

When I spotted negative attitudes in my kids as they grew up, I’d talk to them about it. I wanted to get beyond, “I’m fine’ leave me alone.” I tried to find a fun way to adjust attitudes, using a short, corny poem to get them laughing again and staying positive. At my cue, our four family members would each say a line at the dinner table: 

As you’re going through life,
Whatever your goal,

Keep your eye on the donut
And not on the hole.

You can’t say it without smiling. Attitudes affect the way everyone feels, so it’s good to find language to use as “handles,” to remind everyone to choose their attitudes instead of letting them happen.

2. Use a mental “swing set” to guide conversations.

In the book Marching Off the Map, I talk about the need for “swing sets” in our conversation. Just like swing sets swing backward and forward, we must gaze backward (at what we are grateful for) and forward ( at what we are hopeful for). Swing set conversations are extremely helpful in giving a facelift to the home atmosphere:

  • What are you grateful for in your past and present?
  • What are you hopeful for in your future?

Let me remind you that Growing Leaders has created free Home Chats you can use to spark such discussions with your kids. By offering an image, they start five meaningful conversations everyone can contribute to regardless of their ages.

3. Be watchful of your input.

We’ve all heard the phrase: garbage in, garbage out. Regardless of how cliche it sounds, it is true. What we feed our minds eventually comes out in our attitudes and words. Create guardrails for your young people on what they watch, listen to, and consume on TV, social media, and music playlists. It’s one of our Habitudes called: Personal Laptop. Our minds work like a computer. Whatever documents we create and store in them will remain there and can be pulled up at any time in the future. Whenever bad attitudes surface, pause, and identify their sources. What are we dwelling upon that’s producing the negativity?

4. Try something new for yourself.

Psychologist Lisa Damour says this is the perfect time to focus on yourself and actually try something brand new that you didn’t have time for in your past busy routines. “Have you been wanting to learn how to do something new, start a new book or spend time practicing a musical instrument? Now is the time to do that. Focusing on yourself and finding ways to use your new-found time is a productive way to look after your mental health. . . . I have been making a list of all of the books I want to read and the things that I’ve been meaning to do.”

5. Control the controllables.

Most of the time, people fall into negative mindsets when they lose sight of the things they can control and choose to worry about what’s out of their control. It is important to embrace what we’re feeling–denial is not helpful for mental health–but to also place every attitude and experience into the right bucket. Is it in our control, out of our control, or within our influence? We should respond accordingly. When we only focus on what’s out of our control, the negativity will never go away. Focusing on what’s in our control empowers us to improve our conditions and adjust our attitudes.

The first step when it comes to adopting a positive attitude is to simply direct your attention towards the good, rather than the bad. In psychology, this is called cognitive reframing, and though it appears to be simple, it has a profound effect on your thoughts and behaviors. Over time, as you make the effort to focus on the positive, you will slowly rewire your brain, so it becomes increasingly easier to do so.

Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Five Ideas to Keep Negativity from Becoming Normal During Quarantine