Practicing Kindness from a Distance Amidst a Pandemic

April 6, 2020

Louis Tay

For many students, staff, and faculty at Purdue, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging.

Experiencing sickness. Switching to online instruction and learning. Transitioning home from campus housing. Missing the physical proximity of friends and colleagues.

These challenges can make us feel anxious, uncertain, and even depressed. The tendency is to withdraw and look inward to the problems we face. While we will need time and space to address these immediate issues, we can also end up being overly self-focused and end up predominantly swirling in our own thoughts and emotions. 

Psychological research shows that focusing on self does not lead to reductions in negative emotions. Moreover, it does not raise positive feelings and promote personal well-being. Instead, focusing on others by practicing acts of kindness can enhance positive feelings and lower negative emotions. Part of the reason may be that such acts build up relationships, and generate positive experiences within valued relationships. We are wired to be relational.

How can we practice acts of kindness from a distance?

As we seek to develop new routines, we might insert time to remember a friend, a colleague, or others you know who are in need during this time. Even something as simple as checking-in on someone is precious during a time where many are feeling isolated. You could write an email, craft a text message, or give a call to the person you are thinking about. I have personally found it helpful to drop a line when I find myself feeling distracted from work, feeling antsy, or when I catch myself being caught up with my own fears.

You can find ways to give to your community around you. There are many needs during this time. This can be through financial donations, helping others who are unable to do grocery runs, or helping a friend who has trouble with online learning. I have also seen students find creative ways to tutor and even help babysit virtually. 

We are living in challenging times. Yet, we can use these challenges to remind us of the “things” that matter most. And the “things” that matter most are not things, but people. Lets’ use these moments to look beyond ourselves to cherish and care for those around us.

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Check back each week for his wellness tip of the week!

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