Lingnan University Hong KongEstablishing a growth mindset to combat lockdown isolation

Establishing a growth mindset to combat lockdown isolation

At Lingnan University, researchers have developed self-assessment interventions to support the mental health of those in quarantine, giving them agency and control over their well-being

Lockdowns are one of the few tools available to societies to contain the spread of the coronavirus. But for those placed under quarantine, the sense of isolation placed a strain on mental health and well-being. How best can these feelings of isolation be managed?

Siu Oi-ling, Lam Woo chair professor of applied psychology at Lingnan University, has led research into the mental health of those placed under 14-day quarantine in specially designated hotels, and finds that interventions that helped people establish a growth mindset can play a vital role in supporting those in quarantine.

Conducted between August 2021 and March 2022, Siu’s research split its 103 volunteer subjects – each from three cities in the Greater Bay Area – into three groups. The participants were placed in quarantine hotels, where one group would receive a single intervention in the two-week stay, another would receive four interventions, while a control group received none.

Nuoxun Lin, a PhD graduate of Siu’s who teaches at Huizhou University in mainland China, conducted the intervention study. The interventions took the form of self-assessment, with participants completing a questionnaire online and reflecting on their feelings of isolation, and also watching a video to help them develop a growth mindset. 

“The video is a publicly accessible video on growth mindset based on Carol Dweck, who is the founder of growth mindset theory,” Siu says. “In addition, the intervention included a self-reflection on their physical, emotional and behavioural responses to quarantine, their capacity to be alone, and whether they have a growth mindset improving their ability to be alone.” 

Siu’s project was launched in collaboration with the psychiatric team at Shunde Wu Zhong Pei Hospital. Alan Chan Kwan, a Lingnan graduate in work and organisational psychology, helped coordinate. Together, they discovered that interventions improved subjects’ ability to deal with isolation.

“The results show that participants who had done the intervention self-tests, either once or four times, reported better psychological competencies with a growth mindset and a gratitude mindset than those in the control group,” Siu says. “Participants who did the self-test more times showed better scores than the group that only did the self-test once.”

Gathering data for the study proved challenging. The participants did not all check in to the quarantine hotel at the same time, and had to be contacted individually. Siu is cautious about how this research could inform public health policies in the future, but says her findings will be shared with leaders of psychiatric hospitals in the Greater Bay Area.

While there is some existing research into the psychological impacts of lockdown, Siu’s work is explicitly targeted to develop coping strategies so that those placed under quarantine can use their time profitably.

“Self-isolation is a fact that cannot be changed. Therefore, one can only adopt psychological adjustment to deal with it,” Siu says. “Future quarantine procedures may provide more mental [health] support such as our self-help exercises.” 

Find out more about the department of applied psychology at Lingnan University.

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