Refusing to achieve one's goals during COVID-19 pandemic proves to be good for mental health

September 28, 2022  21:41

People who set aside their long-term goals during a pandemic were better able to avoid anxiety and depression, according to a new study.

The article, "Melting Frozen COVID Goals: How Goal Deferral Supports Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic," is published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo set out to examine the relationship between what they call "frozen goals" - goals whose progress was disrupted by COVID-19 - and psychological well-being.

Candice Hubley, lead author and Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Waterloo, and Abigail Scholer, professor in the psychology department, surveyed 226 participants to examine the relationship between psychological well-being and the pursuit of goals. Participants reported their psychological distress and life satisfaction, and they were asked questions about commonly promoted goals as well as goals frozen by COVID.

The researchers found that goals frozen because of the pandemic were associated with poor well-being: the more of them people had, the more psychological distress they experienced, such as suffering from stress, depressive symptoms and anxiety.

The researchers also emphasized that how people relate to their goals dramatically affects their well-being.

"Goal thinking is compulsive and can exacerbate anxiety and frustration and take mental resources away from other goals," Hubley explained. - Our hope is that people can apply these findings to their lives by taking the time to evaluate their goals and engage with them."

Hubley added that giving up involvement is not an all-or-nothing situation, and sometimes we give up one kind of involvement but not others. By giving up unattainable goals and redirecting effort toward alternative goals, people establish a healthier relationship with their goals and improve psychological well-being.

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