9 Ways to Find Happiness & Joy in a Pandemic
Lots of things contribute to how happy Canadians are with life, but in the past, Canada has often appeared as one of the happiest of nations in the top ten list of the World Happiness Report (WHR). But Canada has dropped out of top ten contention as the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on many of our key happiness indicators, including our health, social connections, mobility, employment and incomes.
According to a Statistics Canada report entitled: “The pandemic and life satisfaction in Canada,” the key indicator “life satisfaction” is the best available umbrella measure combining all the effects of the pandemic on the well-being of Canadians.
According to the report, “Using population-representative samples from the 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey and the June 2020 Canadian Perspectives Survey, this study compares the life satisfaction of Canadians before and during the pandemic. . . . Both the 2018 CCHS and the June 2020 CPSS survey asked respondents the following question:
“Using a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means “very dissatisfied” and 10 means “very satisfied,” how do you feel about your life as a whole right now?
“In 2018, average life satisfaction among Canadians was 8.09 on the 0-to-10 scale, while in June 2020, it was 6.71—a decline of 1.38 points. This is the lowest level of life satisfaction observed in Canada over the 2003-to-2020 period for which comparable data are available. This is a large change, about one-third of the difference between the highest and lowest national life satisfaction averages recorded in the World Happiness Report . . .
“In June 2020, about 20% of Canadians rated their life satisfaction as 8 on the scale, down from the 32% who did so in 2018. More broadly, the share of Canadians rating their life satisfaction as 8 or above declined from 72% to 40% over this period, while the share rating their life satisfaction as 6 or below increased from 12% to 40%.”
Other studies arrived at a similar conclusion about our fall out of the happiness sweepstakes, including one specific to financial concerns. In FP Canada’s report “Coping with COVID’s Financial Impact “survey, states that the pandemic has had a dramatically negative impact on the financial health of Canadians, with nearly one third (30%) concerned they will not financially recover from the crisis.
Although not surprising given all the negative aspects of the pandemic, this research confirms the feelings many Canadians have expressed over the past year: We feel a little diminished, a lot poorer and not as happy as we used to be.
According to researchers, everyone possesses an innate level of happiness. Just how much we can change our “set point,” or even if it truly is a set point, is hotly debated among experts in positive psychology—a field that focuses on nurturing positive emotions rather than correcting negative ones. Karim Kassam, who has done extensive research on the topic of happiness and is an assistant professor at the Emotion Research Laboratory, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other leading researchers, contend that notwithstanding emotional lows and highs, sooner or later we tend to revert to our individual happiness set point.
If you’ve grown weary of feeling down in the dumps, while waiting to get back to your “set point,” you can try to improve your mood by making attitude changes and developing certain skills today. Perhaps if you follow some of these insightful, easy-to-implement practices, they may help you to find a little joy and more happiness during these trying, pandemic days.
1) Stay Connected
Canadians experienced legitimate sadness and disappointment at not being physically present to participate in family get-togethers, dinners, parties, holidays and milestone events over the past year, but sensibly we recognize that this is the best and safest course of action for everyone concerned. But, until such time that we can all be together again in person, everyone should try to make a considerable effort to stay connected.
Mental health professionals agree that keeping in touch with family and friends is important, even while in quarantine and we’re fortunate that we have many technological options to help us stay connected. So whether you prefer to just to give someone a call, Facetime with a few family members or get together with a Zoom-full of friends, there are many facilitation tools to choose from. Use them.
2) Set a new personal goal and go after it, even while in lockdown
People who strive to reach personal goals engage in more purposeful pursuits and are, therefore, happier, according to research by Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University. He says “purposeful pursuit” is any activity that involves self-improvement and reflects a sense of choice—for example, starting yoga, pursuing a hobby or trying to learn a new language. “It may seem obvious, but it doesn’t go without saying: Happiness comes from acting toward those goals.”
3) Never underestimate your ability to bounce back
We find our way to happiness even when things aren’t working out the way we want, according to research by Karim Kassam, assistant professor at the Emotion Research Laboratory, at Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychology Science. “Our research shows that people tend to get over negative events much faster than they expect.” The theory is that we have an emotional immune system—much like our physiological one—that fends off negative emotions. Can we boost this emotional immune response? The research has yet to provide a conclusive answer, Kassam says. One thing we do know, however, is that you get over negative emotions quicker when you’re in a situation that you can’t do anything to change.
4) Manage the day’s slippery slope by being prepared
When researchers at the University of Vermont examined Twitter feed keywords to measure for happiness, they found that happiness peaks in the morning between 5 and 6 a.m., declines steeply until midday, and then gradually hits a low in the evening around 10 or 11 p.m. “It’s part of the general unravelling of the mind that happens over the course of the day,” explains Peter Dodds, lead author of the study and an applied mathematician.
What can you do to counter the steep downward slope? Emotions are ruled by expectancy so manage expectations. Allowing for the possibility of challenges, and not counting on too much, may enable us to accept more readily the events of the day and maintain an even mood. But it is also a good idea to be prepared to handle practical pandemic requirements especially safety concerns.
For example, knowing what the family needs to leave home in the morning and return in the evening and being prepared with all those necessities, could prevent the frustration and challenges of not having what you need when you need it and help you to get by with a minimum of frustration and irritation.
To avoid PPE challenges, replenish masks, gloves and hand sanitizers regularly by ordering directly online from MedPPE Canada and having them delivered to your door. It’s your one-stop convenient source for all your family’s PPE needs. MedPPE Canada’s hand sanitizer comes in many formats and is made with an ethanol alcohol base that can help kill up to 99.99% of germs yet is gentle on skin. Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Tam currently recommends that all Canadians wear a three-layer mask and these are also available at MedPPE Canada. Look for the 3-ply Yafox Type IIR certified masks, with bacterial and particle and bacterial filtration efficiencies of 98%. Go to https://medppecan.com/
If you prepare mentally, as well as practically, disappointment will be tempered by less internalization and negativity.
5) Keep active
If the pandemic has zapped your energy or turned you into a couch potato, it’s time to fight back with physical activity and self-care. Gretchen Rubin, an author of numerous books that include “The Happiness Project” and host of a podcast entitled “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” informs that it is essential to take care of your body if you want to boost your happiness. “Your physical experience will always influence your emotional experience,” Rubin says. “And exercise is the magical elixir of life.” Even going for a short walk or a 10-minute exercise routine will do the trick. According to a Johns Hopkins study, you can add two years to your life by climbing stairs for just six minutes a day.
Recent research has shown that mediation has the ability to calm and focus the mind as well as reduce stress. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is not a special added thing we do. We already have the capacity to be present. But we can cultivate innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, and the world we live in. It has the potential to become a transformative social phenomenon for these key reasons:
- Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not required anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
- It’s a way of living. Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
- It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
- It sparks innovation. As we deal with our world’s increasing complexity and uncertainty, mindfulness can lead us to effective, resilient, low-cost responses to intransigent problems.
7) Find the Right Amount of Downtime
James Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Texas, conducted research that showed that the happiest students, participating in the study, were those who found the “sweet spot” between having too much free time and too little. “Just as too little free time leads to stress and anxiety, too much leads to boredom,” he says. This “sweet spot” varies for everyone. You’ll know you’ve struck it when you’re not stressed or bored or lonely—in other words, when you’re content. This may prove hard to accomplish in a pandemic but remember, boredom is the Devil’s playground.
8) Dress in What Makes You Feel Good
Next time you wake up unhappy, slip into whatever makes you feel good. Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. investigated why women choose to wear certain clothes in the morning, and found that the choice depends heavily on their emotional state. Two clothing items signal someone may be unhappy: When depressed, more than 50 percent of women in the study said they wear jeans and 57 percent chose to wear a baggy top.
Women also revealed that they would be 10 times more likely to don a favourite dress when feeling happy than when depressed. “Many of the women in this study felt they could alter their mood by changing what they wore,” says Karen Pine, the study author and a psychology professor. “This demonstrates the psychological power of clothing and how the right choices could influence a person’s happiness.”
9) Be empathetic and grateful
Randy Paterson, psychologist and director of counselling at Changeways Clinic in Vancouver, points out that in clinical psychology, “tragedy and the misfortune of others can awaken our compassion for people, but also our appreciation of our own good fortune and its temporary nature.” He adds that uncomfortable emotions have not been given their due. “It is through them that we attain many of our greatest traits and skills: empathy, compassion, altruism, trust.”
Researchers studied students and found that comedies and tragedies all fix mood in the short term. However, tragedies appear to do something more: By showing bad things happening to someone else, they channel our attention to our own good fortune.
We can cultivate a sense of gratitude by consciously reminding ourselves of the positives in our own lives, Paterson adds. “We can engage in mindfulness exercises to focus our attention on the world of the present, pulling back from our regrets about the past and our fears of a catastrophic future.”
StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, “The COVID-19 pandemic and life satisfaction in Canada” by John F. Helliwell, Grant Schellenberg and Jonathan Fonberg
FP Canada™ Coping with COVID’s Financial Impact survey. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/one-third-of-canadians-feel-they-ll-never-financially-recover-from-the-covid-19-pandemic-806581695.html