Disability, COVID and the science of happiness
How COVID has opened our eyes to the reality of overcoming challenges
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve
Each year on December 3rd, as we prepare to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD), we get excited about the possibility of a day where the world comes together to focus on the issues our clients are faced with on a daily basis; a day when we recognise the 4.4 million Australians who live with disability.
This year, those of us celebrating December 3rd are doing so by thinking about the lessons we have learned from COVID.
In 2020, we have all faced the social and psychological challenges of being distanced from the people, the places, and the things we love. We have all faced the impact of isolation and how we feel when our choices are taken from us. With the theme “Building Back Better”, this year’s national celebration is one in which we look forward to a world that is disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable.
In the world we live in today, we are surrounded by a myriad of people overcoming physical and mental challenges regardless of COVID. These people are breaking down barriers and choosing to not let their disability define them.
According to the Australian Network on Disability:
- Nearly 4.5 million Australians live with a disability
- 2.1 million Australians between 15 and 64 years of age have a disability
- Only 4.4% of people with a disability in Australia use a wheelchair
- 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss
- 45% of Australians aged 16-85 years experience a mental health condition during their lifetime
- Vision Australia estimates there will be over 500,000 Australians who are vision impaired by 2030, an increase of 65% on today’s vision impaired community
Accessibility, inclusion, choice and respect – these are words that mean so much to people living with disability. As a home care provider and an essential service, we never underestimate the part we play in creating the opportunity for choice and the ability to remain at home surrounded by friends, family and the things that give us purpose, that make us who we are.
At Nurse Next Door, our role in providing in-home care allows us to support people who are thriving and achieving in spite of obstacles or adversity. What we see is that these people all share a commonality; a positive mindset and a laser sharp focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t.
People living with a disability often feel a sense of loss or a lack of control. There is no question that having a disability can create far more and far greater challenges in life than for those without a disability. However, actively cultivating and nurturing a positive mindset can be one of the greatest tools in providing the key to living a happier, fuller life.
A Growth Mindset
Through COVID, the power to choose the way we frame our life has been something we’ve all had to grapple with. Stories abound of people who have made working from home, or learning from home, or simply staying at home, an opportunity to improve and enhance the quality of their lives. The choices we make for ourselves in life are driven by what Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, refers to as either a fixed mindset (those who believe that abilities are fixed) or a growth mindset (those who believe that abilities can be developed).
It’s never too late to change our attitude and train our mind to develop those traits that lead to greater happiness – the power is in your hands. Make no mistake, happiness and positivity is not about being in a constant state of unbridled joy, it is more centred around day in, day out well being, rethinking how we look at our lives which then shapes how we live our lives.
A positive mindset empowers us to engage in the world around us, pursue our passions, strengths and abilities so we can realise and unleash our individual potential.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
As Dweck explains: “Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they are something in your mind, and you can change your mind.” This idea is important in realising that once you know how you think, you can decide whether or not to continue thinking that way.
Focusing on what you can do is not always easy. It can be difficult to reframe your views and beliefs when you have well grooved patterns. Fortunately, the brain has the ability to rewire neural pathways, to learn new approaches and reinvent itself, and science has shown that a person’s beliefs and expectations can play a big role in forming new habits.
Taking action and challenging ourselves is the most important step in rewiring our brain towards positivity and happiness. Amongst positive psychologists, the science of happiness and its success is measured through the idea that small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time. These small positive actions result in frequent positive experiences such as joy, interest and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anxiety and anger.
When we realise that everybody’s “normal” is different, we can begin to understand that each and everyone of us will face different and varying challenges, and that our individual ‘possibility’ lies in our beliefs and the choices we make as to how we view success and happiness. With intentional work, the effort will be worth it.
At Nurse Next Door we’re focused on Making Lives Better – it is, after all, our core purpose. So while this year has been a difficult one for many of our clients, we have continued to look for new ways to fulfil our promise to our clients. As we look beyond 2020, we see a new year full of opportunity, choice and a better future for all of us, regardless of age or ability.
We believe, with a positive outlook and an ability to remain in your own home, you are empowered to keep living life to the fullest. For any questions you have about how home care can help you or a loved one remain living independently at home, call us on 1300 600 247 or visit our website nursenextdoor.com.au to organise a FREE Caring Consult.