The Coronavirus has changed all of our lives, and – depending on the country you are in – also your experience in the grocery store. For instance, in Germany, you can’t enter a store unless you wear a mask. And if you don’t comply, you will be asked to leave. Simple as that.
But just over the border in the Netherlands, you will have a very different experience. Now masks are no longer required, and in fact, you might get weird looks by wearing one at all. And then again on the other side of the world, not wearing a mask has (sadly) become a political statement, often showing your support for the far right.
But Corona doesn’t care about your political affiliation.
And the science is clear: Wearing a mask is an effective measure to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. And research has shown that any concern about not being able to breathe properly is unfounded and untrue.
Wearing a mask is a necessary discomfort to slow the spread of the virus, and prevent thousands of thousands of unnecessary deaths. And yet plenty of people continue not wearing a mask. They may refuse because it’s uncomfortable, because of political reasons, because other people are not wearing one, because it makes them look “weak”, or because they believe this “pandemic” was always a hoax, orchestrated by multi-billionaire Bill Gates.
And even if people wear a mask, after all, they often do it improperly, covering only their mouth but not their nose, thus making the mask more or less obsolete (just like the sculpture on this article’s cover picture. It’s alright, you can check. I will wait here).
When you walk into an enclosed public space, you are better off with a mask. I’m not the first to tell you this, and I will not be the last. Almost everyone understands it at this point, and yet plenty of people continue to not wear a mask – even against their own self-interest.
As a psychologist, I’m used to working with people who act against their own interests.
More than a political or practical struggle, this is a psychological one, because wearing a mask has become a question of who we are as a person, and how we are able to deal with discomfort. This is a psychological problem, and it requires a psychological solution.
Two Psychological Straps To Wear A Mask
Just like a mask is held up by two straps, there are two crucial steps (or straps) to overcome the mental blockage that is hindering you from covering your face. Let’s begin with the first.
Strap 1: Know WHY You Wear a Mask
There are many good reasons to wear a mask, the most straightforward ones being to protect yourself and those around you. But there are also more personal reasons.
A key element of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is knowing what matters to you. The more you know WHAT matters to you (and WHY it matters to you), the more you are going to act accordingly and bring it into your life. For instance, if being brave is important to you (and you know WHY being brave is important for you), the more you are going to act accordingly and bring bravery into your life. And it’s no different with wearing a mask.
The more you know WHY wearing a mask is important for you, the more you are going to act accordingly, and put on the piece of cloth. You have already heard plenty of reasons, but it’s important you find the one that matters most to YOU. Maybe you wish to protect your grandpa. Maybe you wish to be seen as caring. Knowing your WHY can be truly powerful, and it becomes even stronger still if you connect it to something bigger than yourself.
Research has repeatedly shown that doing hard things for others (rather than for yourself) predicts positive behavioural and mental health outcomes. In other words, by doing what’s uncomfortable in the service of helping other people, you step outside of your comfort zone, train your mind, and practice your ability to step up in other areas of your life.
Wearing a mask is a simple gateway to connect with what matters to you, and become mentally strong in the process. It’s not often that you can gain so much by doing so little.