Sustaining a Sense of Happiness During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Importance of Maintaining Mental Health and Increasing Happiness during Troubling Times
The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of global uncertainty, and it has pushed our individual frustration tolerance to the limit. Taking care of our mental health, through physical activity and self-care (e.g., coping skills, relaxation techniques, reaching out for help, plans with friends, thinking about more enjoyable times ahead, etc.), will help make our “new normal” easier to navigate in the long run. Additionally, by taking care of our mental health and setting up good habits, we can improve our work/life balance in order to focus better at work and be more present with loved ones after hours.
How Can We Measure Our Experience of Happiness?
Happiness is subjective. You can informally measure happiness by posing specific questions regarding your subjective well being, such as:
1. What does happiness look like to you?
2. How do you process your emotions?
3. How are you experiencing day to day life?
4. Do you have the life you want?
5. Are you close to having the life you want?
6. Are you satisfied with your life?
7. What are you grateful for?
Asking ourselves these questions – and answering them honestly – can go a long way towards evaluating our happiness and wellbeing.
You can also utilize a journal to track your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This can aid in identifying negative patterns and cycles. If you do this consistently, you can eventually draw some conclusions about the cycle of cause and effect. It is also important that your happiness is not conditional on everything in life working out (e.g., the right partner, the perfect job, the most attractive appearance, etc.). While happiness levels can be improved by external conditions changing, ultimately, happiness is about our internal experience. It is so important to give yourself permission to be happy right here and right now. So as long as you are doing something to boost and embrace your own personal happiness, you are taking a step in the right direction. The important part is to do something.
Tips on How to Sustain and Increase Happiness during the COVID-19 Pandemic
There are many things that can help increase our level of happiness during difficult times. Below are a few ideas that can be accomplished during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Make it a priority to communicate and connect with close friends. Research shows that maintaining meaningful relationships are really the key to lasting happiness. The ability to give and receive love is not only important, but necessary for a happy mind. These connections have become even more important during this pandemic, in which uncertainty is everywhere. Additionally, communicating with friends, some of whom you presumably have known for a long time, helps us to remember these times as part of a larger life. In other words, it allows us to remember: “That this too shall pass.”
- Take different kinds of breaks from work. This can be a coffee break, reading break, music break, social break, etc. Breaks help the brain minimize decision fatigue, which can zap us of our energy and leave us feeling lethargic and disconnected. Breaks can also stimulate creativity, which can serve to strengthen our happiness levels. As Albert Einstein once said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
- Stay away from the news while working. Provided you are not a frontline worker, your daily work tasks can be the ultimate distractor. It allows us to place our focus elsewhere, providing a temporary break from the fluctuating, anxiety-provoking news cycle. News travels fast these days, so you won’t miss much.
- Move your body when you get a moment. Physical activity is one of the best ways to release dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical in your brain that is necessary for happiness and growth. Moving even 30 minutes a day can reduce stress and improve overall attitude. This can make returning to work feel less daunting and make projects seem more manageable. If the movement turns into actual exercise, the added benefit is that over time you will see a trimmer and fitter you! This can increase your self-confidence and improve how you interact with yourself, others, and the world.
Why is Physical Activity so Important for Sustaining Happiness?
Physical activity and mental health are inextricably linked, and each function optimally when they are working in tandem. Physical activity can help minimize the impact of symptoms of anxiety and depression. During the pandemic, these symptoms have increased. In addition to improving our moods, physical activity can improve the quality of our sleep and our overall health and strength.Walking on the beach and hearing waves, soaking up Vitamin D in the park, or going for a power walk by the river – these are all excellent activities for improving overall happiness.
Since there is no “one size fits all” approach to boost happiness, it is best to focus on a combination of physical and mental health activities that make sense to you. In other words, boosting happiness is a very personal activity, and individual approaches will vary greatly. Where some people may need more of a contemplative, meditative approach, others may benefit most from intense physical exertion. Take some time to figure out what may work best for you!
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