Think of the popular optical illusion in which you can either see a young lady turning away her face, or an old woman with a hooked nose and protruding chin. Or look at the well-known ambiguous picture called Rubin’s Vase, a black and white image which can either be perceived as a vase or as the outline of two faces facing each other.

Do you think one interpretation is more correct than the other one? I believe they are both equally valid. Our perception, after all, depends on what we focus on. If we shift our focus from one part of a situation to another, we can change our reality, and thus change our lives.

This is the power of perspective, and it is especially relevant in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought numerous

challenges for all of us. But the pandemic is going to be a problem only as long as we focus on how it is stopping us. Why not shift our attention to how we can utilise it in positive and productive ways instead?

Strengthen your mind

It is natural to feel depressed or resentful about how the global situation has confined the scope of our lives. We should give ourselves space to lament it for a while, but then we have to move on as best as we can. We have to choose to keep looking for as many silver linings as we can.

So here are a few tips you can use to reframe your perspective.

Ask better questions

When you’re feeling frustrated or grumpy, ask yourself: What one thing can I do right now to feel better?

Maybe you can take five deep breaths, stand up straighter and decide to count three things you’re grateful for. Or you may ask yourself a more intentional question: By staying in this negative state, what opportunity am I losing right now? Whenever I ask this question, I’m reminded of the goals that matter most to me, and it always pulls me out of the negativity and puts me back to work.

Count your gains, not losses

Don’t focus on what you’re losing; focus on what you’re gaining.

While it is true that the pandemic has delayed our educational/professional plans, we all have projects or goals we wanted to achieve but had no time for.

A few months ago, I was so focused on my study and career goals that I put a lot of my writing projects on the back burner, even though it made me unhappy. Now, I have an opportunity to return to them and create more joy in my life.

What are those activities for you? Maybe you always wanted to learn to paint, but you never had the time. Well, now you have plenty of time, so go for it!

Replace negative activities with positive ones

If you’re spending too much time reading, watching, or stressing over the news, replace your need for constant information by directing it into something more nourishing. Read books, or listen to audio-books while you’re doing chores around the house.

A title I highly recommend is Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo, in which the author explains that no matter how challenging a situation, you can always find a way to solve it.

Focus on your health

Let’s be honest, most of us were not paying much attention to our physical health before Covid-19. Now, instead of imagining worst case scenarios about your health (which is counter-productive because stress is going to compromise your immune function and leave you at greater risk for disease), focus on how you can leverage this moment of fear to help your previously ignored health goals.

Get more sleep

Research has shown that people who have been sleep deprived are more likely to get sick. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep, or more, if you’ve been skimping on it recently.

Exercise

This may be hard because you can’t leave the house unnecessarily, but there are plenty of ways to exercise right from the confines of your room, whether it is following along with exercise videos on the internet, or marching back and forth across the length of your own room.

Improve your diet

Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially those that contain vitamin D and C, as well as the mineral zinc. These, according to some research, can help with restoring a weakened immune system.

If possible, supplement your daily diet with a multivitamin that contains the major vitamins and minerals.

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Learn new things and develop new skill-sets

It may take us a few months — or years — before we have a solution to Covid-19, but we cannot afford to waste this time in waiting or complaining. All the hours —or days, or weeks — we spend thinking about how terrible the situation is could be applied instead in acquiring valuable skills we would be proud of having once the world is back to normal.

Here are some ways you can start learning today.

Online courses and classes: Coursera and edX are two online learning platforms where you can find courses from universities all over the world. You can either pay for an official certificate or just “audit” a course for free and access the material.

Skillshare and Udemy are great for learning small, specific skills (eg. how to train a puppy, learn a computer language, or learn martial arts).

Learn something just for fun: You don’t have to be all goal-oriented with your learning intentions. For instance, you can try and draw the faces of your friends — no matter how bad the sketches look — and have fun sharing your handiwork with each other.

Missing out on an experience? Create it yourself!

If you’re frustrated about things you’re missing out on, rather than complaining, learn how to do those things yourself.

Finding it hard to go to a hair salon right now? Good news, you can watch a few YouTube tutorials and cut your own hair in whatever style you want.

Improve your relationships

Many of us are feeling frustrated with each other and finding it hard to keep our cool. However, we can look at this situation as an opportunity to develop the skills/lessons we need in order to have healthier relationships, right now as well as for the future. But we can only learn these skills if we choose to shift our perspective on our problems.

Learn how to set boundaries

Living in close proximity with other people 24/7 may take its toll, especially on the more introverted among us. So take this opportunity to set boundaries, and let your family know how much time you’re comfortable spending with them.

And also respect the need for others to have their own space, so don’t demand attention all the time. Everyone needs some ‘me time’ each day.

Learn humility/patience

Now that everyone in the family is spending a lot of time together, this can make us hyperaware of other people’s real or perceived flaws. While we may like to step in and criticise/correct them, we have to realise that we can’t change other people — just like others can’t change us.

We may set boundaries and have honest discussions (or confrontations), but in the end we have to accept people as they are, flaws and all. And we should also realise that this is as much a testing time for them as it is for us, they too would be patiently ignoring some of our own actions that they find irritating.

Learn to connect and have fun together

Many families find it hard to spend time together in positive ways even in a normal situation. A great way to remedy this is to do fun activities together.

It may just be learning a recipe for a sweet dish that you prepare with your family, or it may be an entirely new skill, such as learning to meditate. If you learn things together, you’ll be able to have fun with your family without being bored.

Find creative ways to connect with friends

Take this opportunity to realise how much your friends mean to you and express your gratitude for having them in your life. You can also find ways to connect with them virtually, whether it is through social media, video chatting, or playing multi-player online games together.

Or decide to pursue similar goals and activities even if you’re doing them independently. This way, you can keep each other updated and share how your learning is going.

Improve your relationship — with yourself!

In general, most of us rely on others’ company to keep us occupied, or we may be in the habit of using activities, such as watching TV and browsing the internet, to keep our mind off things.

The current situation has brought this tendency to the forefront, and that’s a good thing: We can now tackle it head-on and learn to be in our own minds without numbing our emotions.

Learn to meditate

By this time you’ve probably heard of the numerous scientific benefits of meditation (better will-power, emotional control, productivity and focus) but maybe this quarantine is your chance to actually start learning how to meditate? My favourite meditation app is Headspace, which comes with a 30-days free trial. Through the daily guided meditations, you can easily learn to meditate with no previous experience and be able to have more peace of mind.

Transform loneliness into self-discovery:

Our ordinary activities — going to school, hanging out with the same people, consuming the same content — can prevent us from listening to the small voice within us. But now we can discover what we really want to do in life without being influenced by the society around us.

For example, maybe you always thought you wanted to become a lawyer because all your best friends are preparing to study law at university, but spending time with yourself may help you discover that you want to pursue a less stressful field and become a computer scientist instead, or a writer, or a teacher.

Start journaling

The social psychologist Dr James W. Pennebaker has found that writing about your emotions can actually reduce your stress levels. So if you’re feeling depressed about the uncertainty of the global situation, why not pour your thoughts onto paper?

It is similar to how Dumbledore would remove thoughts from his mind and put them into his “pensieve” to let them resolve. Well, your journal can be your own personal “pensieve” that can help you get some perspective on life.

So, what are you waiting for? Decide to take action right now. Jot down three things you’re going to do today and in the coming months which will shift your perspective and turn this pandemic into a powerful opportunity for your personal growth.

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 4th, 2020