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257: Do You Have the Pandemic Blues?

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Catch the full episode: https://www.wealthformula.com/podcast/257-do-you-have-the-pandemic-blues/

Buck: Welcome back to the show everyone. And today my guest on Wealth Formula Podcast well he’s been on the show before. I will call him the official psychologist of the Wealth Formula Podcast. His name’s Joel Wade he’s also got a podcast called Mastering Happiness and you know he’s just a really interesting guy who deals with not only you know your run-of-the-mill psychology but also focusing on you know positive psychology which we’re going to get into in a little bit which is psychology for people who really don’t have a negative problem per se but also want to just be happier than they are. Anyway with that introduction Joel, welcome back.

Joel: Thanks. It’s great to be here Buck.

Buck: Yeah so Joel you know the thing that I think that is sort of the 900-pound psychological elephant in the room is you know the whole Covid pandemic and all of you know the things that we talk about in terms of physical health mortality and the morbidity I mean I’ve gone through it personally myself but you know there was always this sort of balance that people have maybe been neglecting in the even in the health fields of you know the effects of lockdowns on mental health. How bad was it this past year for mental health? Can you give a sense of like that sort of the statistics there that people are really not paying much attention to?

Joel: Yeah I’d say it’s been pretty bad just in terms of specifically like depression and anxiety suicidal ideation and attempts and substance abuse and even traumatic experiences. It’s been pretty hard on people I don’t have the exact numbers but you can go online the CDC has figures and different you know APA has some things but the general trend is it’s hard on us because we’re social critters and we need social connection and we also need structure and so those have all been disrupted pretty severely and there’s another element to it. So depression our mood system responds to different things and one of the biggest things that drops our mood there’s a few things loss is the biggest one so if you lose somebody close to you that that’s a good percentage of people their mood will drop. They’ll be in some kind of a depression from that but another thing that we don’t think about often is when we feel stuck when we feel like in a situation we can’t get out of and that’s very much what we’ve been in. Now we’re not stuck you know confined to our rooms but there’s our ability to go out and do the normal things we’ve done all our lives has been really restricted so that’s had a pretty big effect on people.

Buck: Yeah I mean you hear about not only the suicides but also domestic violence there’s all of this stuff that has been yeah you know balancing act with the physical stuff that I feel like psychology sometimes takes a back seat and I think that’s again kind of we’re going to see some of the ramifications of that, specifically one thing I’ve been thinking about Joel as you know I have three little kids and we’ve been lucky enough we’re all our school because we live in a great climate and everything we’ve been able to have school outside like intense. So most kids have not been that lucky and I know this isn’t your area per se with pediatrics but I’m curious if you can help us understand some of the negative effects on children this year when it comes to socialization, psychological development, are psychologists talking about that and what are your thoughts on that?

Joel: Oh yeah and if you can remember back to when you were a kid you know every school year was a world in itself you know you had your specific teacher or teachers you were a certain grade your friends you had a certain group of friends that was you know maybe consistent through the years but certainly, that year here’s our group for the year and the structure is you know it’s built-in there’s a very clear structure you know what to do well or not to do well. You have the support of the teacher you have support of the you get to school and there’s a place to go and all that is so important and we’ll get to it relates to how it’s affected our work too as adults but for a kid it’s so much bigger because I mean I remember I don’t know about you I remember I could tell you the names of every one of my elementary school teachers yeah absolutely what they were like I knew them they mattered to me it’s just not going to be the same on a zoom call with all the structure and all the support is missing and the interaction just the regular interaction I mean I remember I can tell you interactions that I had when I was growing up there just a playground you know for better or worse you know some that weren’t so good yeah but stuff but some that were really delightful that stayed with me my whole life none of that’s happening so it’s pretty it’s hard on kids

Buck: So what do you think the implications of that are I mean one of the things that I think another negative of this is we’ve been dealing with I think his parents a lot of us deal with this issue of kids being on online too much and not experiencing the world and you know having you know like you know kid kids in a room and they’re just basically instead of playing like we used to I mean I have to actively encourage them not to stare down at devices even when they have friends over right yeah but now I feel like that is even magnified even more because the way they don’t see each other very much and so even when they are in person they don’t know exactly how to interact because they’re not used to it

Joel: Yeah in fact it’s what they’re supposed to be doing is looking at their screens that’s right that’s how they connect with their friends and so it sort of turned it upside down in a way and I think so it’s interesting. A lot of the exploration of what’s happening you know the research that I’ve looked at was like last summer so there’s I think there’s stages to this. So the first few weeks you know it’s kind of okay we’re it’s a crisis we’re locking down for 15 days to slow the thing and then that expands so we can all rally for a couple of weeks or for a couple of months or something in a crisis we can do that but then at some point, we settle into okay this is how life is and that’s when our mood system drops a bit and we kind of get used. We have to orient and to the new situation and kind of figure out okay how do we make this a lifestyle now how do we make the best out of this world that we’re in now and so we’ve kind of settled into that place and we’re resilient we’re made we you know as a species we’ve been through everything so we can adapt to that but it takes a toll the the mood dropping and the increase in anxiety the missing of friends it takes a toll the thing though to keep in mind is how very resilient we are and how resilient kids are so kids a year from now this will be I mean for some kids it’ll be this awful time this will be a year that you know was horrible because a lot maybe a lot of bad things happened but for a lot of kids it’ll be like yeah that was kind of weird but they bounce right back.

Buck: Yeah it’s curious how that you know that that plays that’ll play out I mean I’m not you know what I worry about too and I mean it’s sort of beyond the scope of the psychology necessarily even too but you know or maybe not you know just children being able to listen they learn from facial expressions of one another and we’ve been wearing masks right I mean yeah there’s those kinds of things where like I feel like there’s intelligence that’s being that’s formed during these years facial expressions and just you know social cues things like that that they’re missing that I feel like I would think some of this is the long-term damage that you know I’m not saying that they won’t come back and be happy and normal but I think there are some things that it’s hard to imagine they’re not going to have you know some scars from I think with that kind of thing.

Joel: I think it’ll be less than you expect yeah because like I remember years ago looking at there’s research about kids that started reading later than other kids and for the most part a year later they were all reading at the same level so that kind of thing we can catch up with and I think most kids will adapt and catch up to that and and and I think the hardest thing though is when you’re not seeing facial expressions that’s a big part of our social engagement system. The place where we feel safe and trusting and stuff facial expressions vocal tones really matter for that so yeah I think you know in the short term having to wear masks we’re missing some of that in our day-to-day just sense of comfort and joy in seeing other people.

Buck: You know it’s another issue that I wonder about in a way is how people are going to adjust to normal life again. So you know we’ve heard a lot in the news and again I don’t know the statistics but I know at least early on you know divorces were way up as you know I was also a casualty of the pandemic from that end and you know so but then you’ve got literally you’ve even got some relationships that have formed during the pandemic right so they’ve not seen anything other than the pandemic world in a closed-down way of living it’s almost like I look at it as okay it’s almost like we’re in a prison of sorts right now and there is something called a post-incarceration syndrome right? I mean listen I’m excited for things to open up but I’m just curious what types of issues you think some of this kind of change is gonna create for some people?

Joel: Yeah well I think it’s gonna, to use a psychological term I think it’s gonna be pretty weird for a lot of us right but I think for the most part it’s going to be pretty exciting and good and expansive I think everyone’s just sort of chopping on the bit to be free again to live our lives and I think there are a lot of from what I saw actually the divorce rate in general hasn’t grown much in fact statistically it’s been going down for quite a while also the marriage rate has been going down right so they’ve kind of been following each other so fewer people are getting married and so and fewer of them are getting divorced so it’s hard to separate out you know that trend from specifically what’s happening over the last year I think it’s very individual I think some couples will hunker are really happy to just hang out together a lot more and some couples there’s a lot of stress that goes with that for their circumstances whatever it is. So I think there’s a real mixed bag with how it’s affecting relationships and I think when you’re talking about people getting together during the pandemic I think about people getting together like musicians on tour or something you know or yeah you know actors working on a movie they get together there and then they’re not in the movie anymore and then you know you know the context changes do they change with the context right do they change and grow right so and I think the biggest element frankly is staying curious about each other interested in each other playful with each other kind to each other those three elements curiosity really engages our empathy and makes us interested in each other’s worlds and helps us be visible to one another and so the more people can aim themselves there rather than trying to hold on to a certain experience the better.

Buck: You know according to President Biden everyone should be able to get a vaccine by the end of May in the country meaning that theoretically by the fourth of July people could actually you know have a relatively normal existence I mean I think we’ll still be wearing masks for sometimes I don’t think this is binary by any means it’s not a switch it’s gonna be coming off but things could feel a lot more free by the fourth of July and for those of us who might be feeling blue we’ve got a few months I know you’re really good at this kind of thing what are some of the sort of concrete things we might do to improve our mood sort of as a short-term measure because I think you’ve talked before I know about just some things that can provide sort of temporary boosts in mood.

Joel: Yeah well I think I suspect it’s actually going to be faster than that because I don’t know the rates here in my town have plummeted and I think over about 40 percent of people have already been vaccinated here so I think once a certain I think that herd immunity is going to happen much quicker than people are saying so I think one thing is to recognize that probably almost everybody’s mood has dropped so a big shift will be our moods will start rising and and moods move slowly so so it’ll take a little more time it won’t just all sudden be like a switch we’ll we’ll start feeling better and better and better as things start opening up I think that’s kind of that’s kind of built into our systems so I would start by by knowing that if you’re not just all sudden perky that you’re not there’s not something broken about you it takes a little time to really kind of expand out into into your life again I think taking stock of of the things you can be grateful for like if you know any relationships that you have that you value that you treasure that you’ve stayed connected with people through this time. The more you can feel the gratitude for that gratitude is like an antidote for so many things it’s just like a wonder drug psychologically there’s no downside to it. So if you can feel grateful that we’ve I think of all the businesses that have adapted I mean a lot of them have they have not made it through here we have a lot of businesses that have closed but a lot of them have adapted miraculously and just kind of focusing on on the amazing job that people have done managing this dealing with this is pretty phenomenal so starting there and then starting to think okay the best thing you can do for a boost of joy, of happiness is to be kind to another person that’s the number one. If you want to feel an immediate boost to your happiness be kind to do something kind for somebody be kind to them.

Buck: So your specialty Joel is actually what we call positive psychology and so it’s not just about dealing with psychiatric illness but what you’re talking about is the way that you enhance mood and life perspective talk a little bit about how that discipline evolved and how it works exactly.

Joel: Well yeah it’s interesting Marty Seligman about 20 years ago was the president of the APA he got a chance to define a theme and he wanted to have us focus on what makes a good life not just what gets rid of symptoms but how can we flourish in life and one of the surprising things they started having doing lots of finding interventions that would help people increase their happiness their well-being one of them was a very simple thing where you think of three good things at the end of the day and what you did to bring them about you know what the role you had to play in them and also maybe if somebody brought you something if that you could feel grateful for and they had it connected this is online. So there’s like hundreds of thousands of people and they also had them take a depression inventory as part of the study they were doing when people did that simple intervention after two weeks a good percentage of people went from you know pretty depressed to not depressed this is an exercise to help you flourish. It’s not designed to treat a symptom and yet by focusing on a flourishing expanse of life in doing that the symptoms of depression lifted that was a pretty big deal that was almost 20 years ago that happened and that gives a different context entirely for something like positive psychology where you’re looking for what makes a good life as opposed to treating symptoms it turns out if we focus on what makes a good life it does goes a long way to helping symptoms and part of what it does is it makes a bigger context so my problems may be the same size but I have a bigger context. So the problem is smaller in relation to my whole life. Does that make sense?

Buck: Absolutely. You know it’s interesting you just say that that’s an easy one for everyone to try too especially if you’ve got kids and you want to stimulate some conversation around a dinner table what are the three good things that happened today that I’ve actually tried that it’s funny what’ll come out of the mouth of a five-year-old in that context but it’s funny you know so you know my audience very high functioning highly you know successful professionals you know can you give and these are you know a lot of the people that you work with on a coaching because it’s really sort of a coaching right give us some examples I mean obviously you don’t you know we’re not going to talk about anything that gives anybody’s identity away but give us an example of someone who has you know used some of these techniques and what kind of differences is made in his life or his or her life maybe some examples?

Joel: Oh well first of all I think it’s important for people to know that we all have something that we wrestle with you know we’re not we we didn’t none of us came into the world perfectly you know functional on every level with the with the clear owner’s manual so much of of our our our job on earth is to get to know ourselves and get to master our own strengths and weaknesses our gifts and our you know there there’s we’re just so complicated that even if somebody has the best of circumstances the all the love and nurturing and opportunities and they have and they have self-awareness and conscientiousness to to help them focus there’s still a lot of work to making a good life to to really making ourselves you know successful and functioning in a in a really you know in a real successful way so there’s I’ve worked with a lot of very successful people and everybody has stuff and that’s not a that’s not a criticism that’s just a statement of of what it means to be human we’re not there nobody’s perfect but perfect isn’t the isn’t the standard we so part of the issue when we’re tremendously successful in one area is that sometimes we’re be we’re successful because we put all our focus on that one area and some other areas of life can suffer for it you know we might be very successful financially but we haven’t take care of taking care of our health or we’re successful we have a great marriage but but we haven’t really found work that we enjoy you know or there’s so nobody has a perfect balance with all these things we’re just again too complicated but the challenge is to look for okay I’m really successful here what are some other categories of life that that I’ve ignored or neglected because every one of those you fill in helps strengthen you overall so if if you’re if you focused on your your business success and your health isn’t so good okay well maybe it’s time to put some effort into that if if you haven’t been paying much attention to your wife or your kids maybe it’s time to open some more space for thatso a lot of what are thought of as symptoms or or painful places in life a lot of it has to do with things that we’re we haven’t focused on we haven’t we haven’t put the time and energy into mastering so I’ve worked with people that are very very successful and and they struggle with depression but they struggle with it and they get to know it and they they’ve they know what not to do like I have a tendency to depression myself so I know that I need to exercise if if I don’t exercise I can feel my mood system drop if I exercise that’s not an issue I know not to listen to certain music I’m not going to listen to harry chapin’s songs you know or or I’m not gonna listen to sad ballads yeah because it’s not good for me yeah I can appreciate that yeah that’s a beautiful song but I’m not gonna listen to it yeah so just paying attention to what supports you and what what doesn’t support you is part of the mastery that’s why I call it Mastering Happiness it’s not like oh you you know just do these 10 things and you’ll be happy no it’s a process it’s a skill set.

Buck: So the parallel is almost like preventative medicine

Joel: Right yeah exactly.

Buck: Instead of just dealing with pathology we’re just saying how do we you know how do we stay healthy and you know work on becoming optimally healthy in that regard. Good stuff Joel. Again the podcast itself is called Mastering Happiness and you have coaching services as well. Tell us is there a website where can we get in touch with you if it makes sense?

Joel: Yeah my website is drjoelwade.com and all my information is on there. I have my books Mastering Happiness, The Virtue Of Happiness and I have a new course that will be out in about three or four weeks on mastering emotions, moods, and reactions so talking about some of the things we’ve talked about here today in terms of how do you deal with a low mood or and what are emotions because they’re complicated they’re not as simple as we thought so yeah I mean if this is a good time for anybody who’s looking for that metamorphosis to come out on the other side of the pandemic.

Buck: Yeah and so Joel thank you very much again for being on Wealth Formula Podcast and I would love to have you back and hopefully when we have you back it’ll be a new world it’ll be the first time pandemic world and it’ll be partying like it’s I guess 2019.

Joel: Yeah like the old days. Well, thank you Buck it’s a pleasure being here as always. A lot of fun.

Buck: We’ll be right back