In honor of their 50th anniversary, Starbucks in Chicago is inviting customers to share what brings them joy during this holiday season.
During the pandemic, for many people it became difficult to maintain a positive attitude. The outbreak of COVID-19 caused fear, anxiety and depression in the general population and healthcare professionals. With lockdowns, curfews, closed businesses and the inability to socialize as we had previously, many people suffered a continued negative impact on their mood and overall adjustment.
Across the world, the consequences of the pandemic resulted in adverse effects on mental health and quality of life. The fear, uncertainty, unpredictability along with the large number of people who became ill or died increased stress in people everywhere.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals recommended different coping strategies and methods for remaining positive during stressful times. Online Positive Psychology group intervention for the general public, for police officers, and for healthcare professionals, were shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety, stress symptoms and burnout.
Smaller efforts however, have also been shown to help people feel better during these stressful times. For example, research has shown that expressing gratitude can improve a sense of well-being during difficult periods. Being able to find moments of joy is another way many people have used to cope with the negative emotions of the pandemic. Prosocial behavior and bringing joy to others, even when we are all in the same boat has also made people happier, including those carrying out these actions.
Starbucks in Chicago has decided to celebrate their 50th anniversary, by asking their customers to to leave notes of encouragement and help make someone smile on a “positivity board”. At the Starbucks in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, this board is set up in clear view, and everyone standing in line passes by it before they get to the counter.
During my most recent visit, I noticed that everyone who lined up to order took notice of the board when they came up next to it. Several people left notes or their own. Asking some customers what they thought of the board, the response was a positive one. People seemed to appreciate the effort. One customer remarked:
“Chicago's bad enough as it is. But the past couple of years have been worse. Then when we think we’re finally out of the woods, the variants show up and not even being fully vaccinated can definitely protect you from getting sick. Now we’re back in masks, and have to practice social distancing and worry about sanitizer and not going inside bars and restaurants if they’re too crowded. With all that, it’s nice to have a place that gets people to focus on joy not despair and where we can think about others and how to help them which takes our mind off our own worries if just for a few minutes.”
Some of the messages on the board so far include:
- “You are important to someone – even if you don’t realize it”
- “You have a special ability to spread love and kindness”
- “You’re worth it”
- “Remember you got this”
- “The world would lack something important if you weren’t in it”
One employee remarked that throughout the day they’d seen people stop at the board and smile. “Since we reopened, since people have to wear a mask, it’s like there’s a partition put up and no one really interacts the way they did before all this. But the board seems to get people to connect.”
If the Starbucks near you doesn’t have a place to leave these kinds of comments, suggest it. Even without a formal place to do this however, you can always put it into place in your own life by telling others these things, why you appreciate them and why they are special to you. A little kindness goes a long way, especially when the world has become a uniformly stressful place.