A new study revealed that despite struggles with the post-pandemic new normal, increasing homelessness, and mental health challenges, almost 20% of Antelope Valley residents consider themselves as thriving.
The study, conducted by The Wellbeing Lab, revealed that while 9.3% reported they were really struggling and 31.6% not feeling bad but just getting by, 40.2% of residents reported living well, despite struggle, demonstrating that even when facing a global pandemic, a changing political and economic landscape, and numerous personal and professional challenges, it is possible to be well despite struggle.
“Before and throughout the global pandemic our studies with thousands of respondents have repeatedly found a statistical difference between those living well despite struggle and those not feeling bad but just getting by,” explained Louis Alloro of The Wellbeing Lab. “But not in Palmdale. We saw similar levels of wellbeing for people who say they are in both categories.”
“When we gathered data in late June, we saw that even with socio-economic hardships and pandemic stress, some residents, particularly the Latinx community, showed a determined optimism in their wellbeing levels,” he said. “This is a great place for the Antelope Valley Wellbeing Coalition to learn what is working well and build upon it.”
On the other hand, upper adolescents, age 18-24, were most likely to be really struggling, and a prime place for the Wellbeing Coalition to implement positive interventions.
The data clearly shows that caring for community wellbeing is more than just the sum of how individuals are feeling and functioning. Instead, wellbeing perceptions, experiences, and behaviors are diverse, and are shaped within communities by:
- Intrapersonal factors (e.g., personality, skills, motivation)
- Interpersonal factors (e.g., the quality of our connections with other)
External factors (e.g., housing quality, education levels, access to food and resources, equality) that dynamically impact each other.
For example, people who were thriving even in the face of struggle reported:
- Higher levels of ability and motivation to care for their wellbeing, and safe spaces to talk with others about the wellbeing challenges they may be facing.
- Having access to community healthcare facilities, natural environments (like parks), mental health support, opportunities for connection and wellbeing information and tools are also important.
- Feeling like they belonged in at least three or more places in their community - like their family, with friends, at work, or in their spiritual community.
Given the restrictions mandated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to try and minimize the spread of COVID-19 – from stay-at-home orders to physical distancing requirements – it is not surprising that almost half of Antelope Valley (AV) residents (46%) reported feeling lonely and isolated. Loneliness is a mismatch between the connection people crave and the connection they have. Studies have consistently found that feeling lonely and isolated is detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing.
Three of every ten people (29.6%) in the AV felt it was best to keep their struggles to themselves. Given managing money was the leading cause of struggle for 22.3% of respondents, followed by mental health (16.7%) and dealing with people (15.3%), normalizing and making it safe to talk about these struggles for more people in the community could really help.
“It’s understandable that after having to demonstrate their resilience over and over again during the global pandemic, people are tired,” acknowledged Alloro. “The data suggests that if the community wants to hold onto this resilience leaders need to be prioritizing safe spaces for residents to recover and reconnect as we navigate a new normal.”
To help make going back to the workplace and school a healthy and happy process, Alloro suggested the following approaches for AV residents and leaders:
- Prioritize Space for Real Connection – We’ve all found dealing with people challenging when we’re feeling exhausted. Acknowledge that your community members have demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of ongoing uncertainty and disruption over the past year and encourage them to create spaces for human connection at work and school. It might be scaling back the number of meetings, encouraging people to take lunch breaks, a bonus long or homework free weekend, or simply reminding people that we value taking care of each other.
- Help Leaders Learn to Express More Care and Compassion – Leaders have a significant impact on their people’s levels of wellbeing. Our research has found that when leaders express care, compassion, and appreciation often – as opposed to sometimes or rarely – both wellbeing and performance outcomes improve for the leader and their team members. Fortunately, with a little thought these behaviors can be integrated into the existing role modelling, routines, and rituals leaders already prioritize each day.
- Keep Learning About and Applying Wellbeing Science – Wellbeing comprises moments of both thriving and struggle. Struggle is not a sign that we are broken, it is an opportunity for learning and growth. When we have the knowledge, tools, and support to help us navigate these moments, we struggle well and express resilience and even growth in adverse circumstances. Humans of all ages need psychologically safe spaces to talk honestly about their wellbeing and what’s working well, where they are struggling, and what they are learning about caring for their wellbeing, money or mental health struggles, in order to sustain their levels of resilience.
The full report which was conducted by The Wellbeing Lab in partnership with the City of Palmdale and Drs. Michelle McQuaid and Peggy Kern from the Center For Wellbeing can be downloaded at https://wellbeing-lab.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/WLab_Antelope_Valley_2021_Community_Report_Final.pdf
“We are excited to use the findings of this report to help inform our new efforts to build a Welllbeing Coalition in the AV,” said Assistant to the City Manager Nardy Lopez. “Our next step is for regional leaders or their engaged employees to join a capacity-building training program in applied positive psychology, the science of wellbeing.”
Scholarships are available from City of Palmdale’s Leadership Antelope Valley initiative, a project of Palmdale Cares. Applications are due by mid September and are available at https://www.thewellbeinglab/capp-av/.
For more information and to arrange a presentation of the survey findings to your workplace, school or community group, contact Louis Alloro at The Wellbeing Lab at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nardy Lopez at City of Palmdale at email@example.com.