‘Nobody knows how high the mountain is. That has a demotivating effect ‘

The end-of-year period of 2020 presents itself lonely, limited to your own family, supplemented at most with one cuddle contact. Singles may receive two people at home. ‘Clearer goals are needed’, says motivational psychologist Maarten Vansteenkiste (UGent).

“This will not be an easy period for many people,” says Vansteenkiste, in the aftermath of the decisions of the consultation committee. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) announced tonight that there will be virtually no easing during the holidays, in order to avoid an even higher third wave.

‘To make that sour apple a little less sour, two things are very important,’ says Vansteenkiste. ‘The government must continue to invest in communication about the need for these measures. She must continue to refer to the fragility of the situation in order to keep risk awareness high. ‘

Messages are already circulating on social media from people who indicate that they will not comply with the rules around Christmas. Can the government change their minds?

Those people will have to realize that a celebration at Christmas is not worth all the misery that can follow. They have to see that the soap is not worth the cabbage. The government can show this, for example with a graph that indicates what effect it would have on the curve if we relax today. ‘

‘A barometer, which shows how we are gradually evolving towards safer zones, can still help to provide perspective. In addition, the government must inspire people, for example with a guide with ideas about how we can still spend a pleasant end-of-year period when physically separated. ‘

‘The focus is best on young adults, from 18 to 35 years old. Our surveys show that they are the least motivated to comply with the measures. They have no children and are in the habit of meeting many friends on New Year’s Eve. This will be the hardest for them. ‘

The measures do have the advantage of clarity.

‘This time there is indeed no puzzle involved, and that is good. In the past, we often saw motivation take a dip simply because communication was not clear. Since the De Croo government took office, every press conference has led to more motivation. I’m curious whether that will be the case now. ‘

It has already been announced that this will last until mid-January. Can we keep that up?

‘That is confronting for many people. Clear goals are needed. We are climbing up a mountain, but no one knows how high it is. What exactly do we want to achieve by mid-January? And what more will be allowed if that succeeds? A month and a half is also a very long time. It would be better to break up that period, for example in periods of two weeks. Even if nothing can be offered for those intermediate goals, at least it offers something to work towards. ‘

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