The Department of Psychology, Virtual University of Pakistan organized a one-day webinar on “Self-Growth and Self Exploration: New Avenues in Positive Psychology during COVID-19 Pandemic” through Zoom on September 15, 2020. The webinar was intended to provide a platform for deliberations and discussions with a focus on positive aspects of COVID-19 for the community. Mr. Naeem Tariq, Rector, Virtual University of Pakistan, was the Chief Guest of the event. Dr. Naumana Amjad (Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nur International University), Dr. Akhtar Ali Syed (Principal Clinical Psychologist with Brothers of Charity Services, Waterford, Ireland) and Dr. Rafia Rafique (Director, Institute of Applied Psychology, University of the Punjab, Lahore) were the keynote speakers. A large number of students, faculty members, educationists and practicing clinical psychologists attended the webinar.
The webinar began with the recitation of the Holy Quran. The program started with the welcome address of Prof. Dr. Najma Najam, Advisor Academics, Virtual University of Pakistan. Dr. Najma Najam started her welcome address by appreciating the efforts of the webinar speakers for their excellence and contributions in their respective domains. She further added that positive psychology has become increasingly relevant during global pandemic as it is observed in Pakistan through a wide range of responses to this trauma. She added that some people coped while some people collapsed. She elaborated that those who coped and were resilient, were people who had actually utilized this time for self-discovery. They looked within themselves, explored their unique talents and abilities and cultivated them. This practice of self-exploration led to self-awareness and these both were possible due to self-control. She added that being productive during this time was only possible because people were able to control their impulses and emotions. Furthermore, she explained this with reference to Islam that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) also used to meditate in the Cave of Hira, and if one is able to develop a positive relationship with oneself, only then one is able to develop a positive relationship with others. The Chief Guest of the webinar Mr. Naeem Tariq, Rector, Virtual University of Pakistan explained that Pakistan has curbed the virus better than the most developed nations, which he attributed to the inner positive resourcefulness in the context of culture and religion. Furthermore he explained that because there is a lot of negativity in our society, we might have failed to learn any lessons from the past six months. He added that this is a time for the young generation to deeply understand the religion through self-practice and self-reflection while also includes remembering death as our inevitable reality. He suggested that positivity helps in maintaining the worries, anger and other negative emotions very effectively. He asked the audience to engage in self-learning and commit to appreciate the bounties of Allah, an activity which he practices himself diligently.
The first speaker of the webinar was Dr. Naumana Amjad (Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nur International University) explained what Positive Psychology is, with emphasis on the terms of positive emotions and positive traits. She, then, identified the indigenous character strengths and presented practical examples of the character strengths of zest and kindness observed during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan. She emphasized that for good mental well-being, one should focus on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health to gain complete happiness. This was followed by some tips on maintaining positive well-being by being more hopeful, by finding humor in different situations and by developing a stronger relationship with yourself and Allah.
The second speaker of the webinar was Dr. Akhtar Ali Syed (Principal Clinical Psychologist with Brothers of Charity Services, Waterford, Ireland) who presented his views along the spectrum of past, present and future times. In comparison to the history of different pandemics, the current pandemic has been dealt with most effectively due to the technological advancements of the current time. As COVID-19 has brought many problems along, there are some positive aspects of the pandemic as well, health concerns being at the top. Despite discussing ideas on tackling this pandemic either through the development of vaccine or engaging in another approach altogether, Dr. Akthar quoted Zizek that people are still disoriented and clueless about the future. It is important that we learn from the past, implement the learning in the present and be cautious and ready for the future. It is high time that we listen to those who are the experts in their field and should rather keep our biases aside in the times of crises. He concluded by suggesting that it is up to us as to how we choose to live once the pandemic is over or effectively controlled.
The third speaker of the webinar was Dr. Rafia Rafique (Director, Institute of Applied Psychology, University of the Punjab, Lahore). She emphasized on the importance of sustaining mental health, especially during the pandemic, particularly COVID-19 may be overcome but its psychological impact will probably stay for a longer time. The data recorded from the COVID-19 mental health helpline, helped her to identify some major problems reported by the people. Problems such as aggression, frustration, negativity, stress, sleep problems and anxiety were observed. Dr. Rafia presented solutions for each particular problem in order to effectively deal or minimize them at the very least. She also shared some tips on maintaining a good mental health, which included finding healthy activities, change in routine and emotional management. In the end, a QA session was held and questions from the participants were responded by the speakers.
In her concluding remarks, Prof. Dr. Najma Najam thanked the speakers, audience and faculty for such an interactive and informative webinar.