Mental Health in a Pandemic: In Search of Meaning

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, shares advice and resources on how to manage your mental health in lockdown.

‘Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.’ 

This is a quote from a psychiatrist called Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. He makes the case that those who deal best with the most challenging and difficult life circumstances are those who can find meaning and a sense of control over their environment. What makes his argument incredibly powerful is that he’s describing his own experience as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War.

From his experiences, Frankl came to believe that our main motivation or drive in life is not pleasure (as Freud had thought) or power (as Adler had thought), but meaning. After the war he established a school of logotherapy – derived from the Ancient Greek term logos, meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. His message is one of hope, that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanising situations, we can choose to find meaning in our experiences.

Frankl identified three ways in which we can find meaning:

  • Creativity – or giving something to the world through self- expression,
  • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
  • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

The changes we’re experiencing in our lives because of the Coronavirus have created an opportunity for us to reflect on what matters most to us personally, and as a society.

Kindness and a sense of community has shone through, despite self isolation and social distancing. As Brene Brown says in the message below:

If you’d like to explore your own personal values and what gives you a sense of meaning in your life, click here to find Positive Psychology questionnaires to help you do this.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine. 

Click here for Resources for Resilience


This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay.


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