Ural Federal University: People with a Positive Attitude Toward the Past Easier to Handle Crises

People with a positive attitude toward their past and who plan long-term life prospects are less likely to be depressed, sleep better, and, for example, more easily tolerate the isolation caused by a coronavirus pandemic. In contrast, those who evaluate their past negatively, are committed to fatalism or hedonism in the present, feel hopeless and defenseless about the future, show more characteristic signs of depression, have trouble sleeping and are at risk of developing mental disorders. This is according to the results of a study of scientists from Komi, the scientific center of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Ural Federal University, Tyumen State Medical University and Vyatka State University. An article with the findings was published in the journal Biological Rhythm Research.

“It would seem logical to assume that during crises like the coronavirus pandemic, those who make short-term plans, in other words, live one day at a time, feel most comfortable. After all, psychological science knows that in times of uncertainty and unpredictability, those who can make quick decisions win. These tend to include those who enter puberty early, are less likely to build long-term family relationships, are prone to risky behavior, and neglect their health. However, our research showed that this hypothesis was not confirmed,” comments Anna Pecherkina, Head of the Department of Pedagogy and Psychology of Education at UrFU, research participant and co-author of the article.

Researchers have found that the experience of isolation is easier for people who are future-oriented and plan “long term,” those who are able to switch from short-term to long-term tasks, depending on their needs, and vice versa. Usually these are young people, distinguished by a positive attitude toward their past, who are more disciplined in their isolation mode. Sleep in such people is more effective due to synchronization with the biological clock.

Young men and women who treat their past negatively, demonstrate hedonistic behavior in the present and a fatalistic attitude to the future endure and observe the isolation regime worse. Such people more often show signs of depression and suffer from anxious sleep.

“Signs of depression were observed in the majority of respondents. However, those who regarded isolation as a temporary challenge and focused on long-term tasks successfully adapted to covidual restrictions and coped with this emotional state. Those who believed that “life was over” showed signs of depression more vividly,” explains Anna Pecherkina.

Note, the aim of the scientists was to assess the relationship between attitudes toward the past, present and future, the quality of sleep and wakefulness and psycho-emotional state during covidal isolation. About 850 undergraduate and graduate students from Syktyvkar, Kirov, Ekaterinburg, and Tyumen, aged 17 to 26, participated in the study, which was conducted during the initial phase of the pandemic, in April-June 2020.

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