Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Flourishing in Post-Pandemic Life

Flourishing in Post-Pandemic Life

Ready to rip the Band-Aid off and move on to post-pandemic life?  

Vaccination rates, while not at the herd-immunity level that many scientists had sought, are pretty good, I think it is safe to sayespecially when combined with the people who have developed natural immunity. The seven-day average of new infections is dropping according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The CDC is easing up on masking wearing in many circumstances. We know that Texas is easing up: have you been to the supermarket lately? It has even been reported that Dr. Fauci cracked a smile the other day! So, in general, hope seems to be evident.

However, after a year of isolation and taking precautions, many, myself included, are feeling a little anxious about ripping off the Band-Aid and doing things we did before. In some cases, there is good reason to be cautious. 

Most of us are eager to have re-entry and even want to flourish. By the way, I would not have even known that term from the psychology world if I had not read a recent column by Adam Grant in the New York Times. It turns out that flourishing entails a number of factors such as physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. (The opposite is languishing.) 

I decided to ask Texas Tech Physicians' very own Sarah Wakefield, M.D., Chair of our Department of Psychiatry, about all this and how we can enhance our chances of flourishing and dealing with reentry.  Here is what she has to say.

First of all, Dr. Wakefield, what is flourishing?

“Flourishing is not about taking a bunch more of your time to dedicate to one activity to improve your mood. Rather it is about integrating habits that improve your connectedness to the world into your daily life. I was listening to a lecture a year or two ago, and sadly I am not going to be able to remember anyone’s names, when I heard a journalist asked a famous mindfulness master about what would indicate to him that he had reached the pinnacle of happiness. He said something to the effect of, “When I notice and appreciate the beauty of the flower growing up in between the sidewalk cracks on my way from one place to another, that’s when I know I am in a happy place.”

Has this been around awhile?  Is it a new concept or emphasis?

“For a very long time, discussion about mental health, and treatment strategies, have focused on a goal of absence of pathology instead of the presence of health. This may make sense when someone is presenting in a mental health crisis, but for the broader community, and to prevent as many crises as possible, we must start focusing on mental health and well-being, or what is often referred to “flourishing.”

Do you have resources that you recommend?

“I recommend a course by Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale who teaches a course called ‘The Science of Well-Being.’ About a year ago this course became freely available online.”

Finally, I asked Dr. Wakefield for some practical suggestions.

“Well, they are not rocket science, but it turns out they are science. They have been studied and are shown to correlate with increased happiness, satisfaction, well-being, and flourishing.   

  1. 1. Savoring – or what I call celebrating the micro victories in life. Did you get a great parking spot? Is the sky really blue today, or the clouds impressive? Savoring is really about mindfulness. Being in this exact moment and taking in everything you can through your senses of what that experience is.
  2. 2. Gratitude – different from savoring, gratitude is about thinking outside of this moment of what brings joy to your life, big and small. Turns out you need to memorialize this gratitude in some way for it to be most effective. Saying it aloud as a habit at dinner or writing in a journal can work nicely. 
  3. 3. Kindness – as an action that is. Acts of kindness can be random like helping someone across the street, or planned as in a volunteer activity. They can cost money like buying coffee for the person in line behind you, or cost nothing like picking up a piece of trash you see on the ground.”


Thank you, Dr. Wakefield for taking time to talk with me.  You have shed interesting light on the subject, made practical suggestions, and provided solid recommendations.