LECOM Mental Health Minute - The 5 to 1 Ratio - LECOM

LECOM Mental Health Minute – The 5 to 1 Ratio

Thursday, 26 March 2020

By Melanine Dunbar, PhD and Diane McKay, PsyD

The COVID-19 pandemic challenges us with a lot of uncertainty, fear of the unknown, and a feeling on not being in control. We are all currently experiencing a great deal of stress as a result. It is difficult to stay positive during most difficult situations, but even more so when the situation seems so daunting. In such times, negativity will take all the headspace we give it and it, too, can be contagious. Stress and negativity distract us and we can easily lose sight of the things in our lives that are more important and bring us joy, comfort, and peace. Negative feelings like anxiety, irritability, sadness, frustration, anger, and depression can easily creep in and create even more distraction, especially during times like these when there seems to be some much negativity around us.

There are many ways we can fight this negativity and build a “Positivity Bubble” around us for protection. Staying positive does not mean ignoring what we feel or not paying attention to the difficulties or tasks before us that require our attention; it is about knowing that there is more out there than just the stressor or struggle before us. Staying positive is not always easy. We have the power to choose where we put our focus/attention. We can redirect our focus and attention and tune into the positive things in our lives, and, with practice and intention, this can become a healthy habit. This is important for us all the time, but it is especially necessary during such trying times. We do this by practicing gratitude, finding all of the positive things around us we can, and following the “Magic 5-to-1 Ratio”.

  • Practicing Gratitude: This is as simple and making a list and writing down at least one thing each day that you are thankful for in your life, or something good that you experienced, or celebrating a small (or big) accomplishment. EXAMPLES: fluffy dogs; a colleague complimented about…; I finished the book I was reading (for pleasure).
  • The Search for the Positive: This one tends to be the easiest for us to do and it what is meantby the phrase “take time to smell the roses”. It is all about noticing and doing things that make you feel good and bring peace and comfort into your life. EXAMPLES: watching/listening to things that makes you happy or laugh, you saw something that made you smile, etc. This is also about noticing your strengths, complimenting others on theirs, being our own or someone else’s cheerleader. Doing good deeds for one another, telling others how much we care about them and how happy we are to be a part of their lives, etc. Remember, this does not have to be something that takes a lot of planning or hours of time; one comment or action or 5 -1 0 minutes goes a really long way. We need to try to have patience and be tolerant with ourselves and others. We also need an extra measure of kindness when stress builds up: “Just a spoonful of sugar…”
  • The “Magic 5-to-1 Ratio: This concept comes from research that found for every negative interaction one experiences, it takes five (5) (or more) positive interactions to counter its effects. That is, one negative requires 5 positives to balance things out and reduce the effects that “stressor” has had on an individual. This has been demonstrated in both interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal relationship (the one we have with ourselves (self-talk; inner dialogue, etc.).

As always, please remember that we are available to you for support and connection to resources. Please take care of yourself and those you around you. Remember… the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.