Scarcity is a vicious cycle. A lack of resources, including money, time or basic needs, causes stress and a heavy cognitive load on people’s minds.
“You’re in firefighting mode tunneling your attention on the problem at hand while neglecting other things you should be paying attention to – your next appointment, getting enough sleep, eating well, or paying bills. This can lead to catastrophic outcomes,” says Dr. Jiaying Zhao, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, UBC.
Dr. Zhao’s research often examines how scarcity negatively affects human cognition and behaviors, and what intervention(s) are effective. She has frequently collaborated with Streetohome and helped pilot the original Exploring Your Life Intentions self-assessment in three supportive housing buildings in 2016, focusing on housing, employment and substance use.
“I was surprised to see how many individuals identified unmet housing, employment and recovery needs. They had a clear idea of what they wanted to do, but not how to move forward,” Dr. Zhao says.
With more than 14,000 homelessness-focused services in BC, individuals often feel overwhelmed and unable to determine what might be the most appropriate service for them.
Exploring Your Life Intentions provides an opportunity for individuals to self-assess their goals under: housing; employment & volunteering; learning, training & skills; health & wellness; legal & advocacy; and community & belonging domains. A companion Guide to Services details support options within the city of Vancouver that individuals are able to self-refer to.
These tools are intended to broaden each individual’s attention to help them tackle their goals across multiple domains. By taking part in goal setting, progress tracking, and self-affirmation exercises, individuals will be able to: experience a sense of accomplishment; alleviate the stigma associated with poverty; and feel encouraged about staying on track and moving closer to their goals.
“There’s empirical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of self-affirmation exercises, and my hope is that by including them, it will improve cognitive function and behaviours in a variety of domains,” Dr. Zhao says.
“Connecting to key services that best meet an individual’s needs enable actions to improve one’s circumstances.”