Is your news feed overwhelming you? Are you tired of waking up to panicked social media posts and bleak television programming? Living under a lockdown is a hard thing to experience, and saying that we could all use a little bit of good news is no understatement. We went to ask what helps people find the happiness they need to get through these times.
If there is one thing that these past few weeks have taught us, it is how fragile our sense of “normal” can be. We took many aspects of our daily routines for granted: going to work in the morning, grabbing a drink with a friend, going out to a movie or simply wander around town with no particular goal in mind. Many of what we considered our regular activities revolved around meeting or being around people; it’s no surprise that now that we only have ourselves and whoever is living with us as company, our ways to find happiness have changed.
Humans may be social beings, but above everything else, they are resilient. Even if things have been difficult to deal with lately, we took to social media and asked a simple question: what made you happy lately? What put a smile on your face, what turned a bad day into a good one? Among the answers, a few broad categories stood out. If you’ve been struggling to find things to be positive about, read on for some inspiration.
Among the answers, the one that came back the most often is a seemingly simple one: cooking, and more specifically learning more recipes. This isn’t surprising: as eating out is no longer an option, food shopping options are different and those working from home now get to spend more time than ever near their kitchen, trying out new things is bound to happen.
Yet cooking has taken a bigger meaning in these times. For those living with people, it is a time to bond: “I cook dinner for my flatmates very often”, says one of our answers. “I find it a huge source of happiness for me because I like making people happy and I like cooking”. And for those of us living alone, learning how to get better in the kitchen can come from a place of self-improvement and self-respect. We all need to eat, and going beyond the “traditional pasta with ketchup” can be a way to care for yourself, your body and your mind. You heard the people: if you’ve been struggling with finding happiness, pick an old recipe book or research the latest Instagram craze, and get cooking!
(RE)CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE
Just because we’re physically away from our friends and colleagues doesn’t mean that we have to be mentally distant as well. For one of our anonymous contributors, living under the lockdown has been the opportunity to learn how to be more comfortable on video calls with her friends, something that she used to struggle with. Another is a psychologist and has been touched to see her clients worrying about her and asking about her wellbeing over their video appointments.
Many students or young adults have also chosen to go home to their family during this time, as the perspective of spending weeks in often very small student accommodations was far from thrilling. Some bonding time with family members was to be expected. What may be more surprising is the amount of people happy to reconnect with their family pets! When talking about his dog, Cian says that “there’s always someone there for him now. He has no idea why everyone’s at home but he’s happy there’s now always someone to hang out with during the day.” “My dog fell asleep while I was scratching his ears”, says another answer. “My pets don’t care one bit about the lockdown and are still a ray of sunshine in my life”, says another. You got the message: if you’re feeling down and have the chance to keep an animal friend under your roof, you have our full permission to get off the internet and go hug them right now.
You heard it again and again over these past few weeks: if there was ever a time to up your productivity in areas of your life you’ve been neglecting, it’s now. While we’re no advocate for running yourself into the ground, it is uplifting to see that people have been able to combine useful skills and happiness. Physical activity has been proven time and time again to improve mental health, and the answers confirm it: from Alyssa, an American teenager, telling us about learning to roller skate to Nicolas, a French student recounting the simple pleasures of biking and walking in the streets of his small town, many of our contributors prove that moving your body can very well be the needed boost for your happiness. One of our answers also mentions the added bonus of the better air quality and absence of noise due to the lack of cars on the roads. Talk about looking on the bright side!
Other ways to improve on yourself includes reconnecting with your talents: one answer mentions being able to draw again and be more creative than when they would come home after a long day of work with no energy left. Writing, making videos and catching up on books or films are also several options to consider. It’s time to take a deep look into your past: do you have a passion or a goal that you’ve been neglecting because of the hectic rhythm of modern life ? If so, trying to get back into it might be the key to your future happiness !
The last thing on our list may be the most important. Caroline Dooner said it best: what we are experiencing right now is not rest. We may be less physically active, but our minds are constantly overworking and trying to adapt to a very stressful and unfamiliar situation. We’re all coping in different ways, and if you can’t find the motivation to do any of the above suggestions, it’s time to let yourself off the hook and let yourself do one of the things we neglect the most: truly take a deep breath and relax.
Those that answered our question did not wait for our permission. “It seems that I’m not done on sleeping 11 to 12 hours per night on weekends plus naps in between and 9 to 10 hours on weekdays”, says one answer. “I can wake up at 8.29 to go to an online class that starts at 8.30”, says one of many college students now getting to use the time they used to spend commuting. A surprising recurrent guest in answers is the new Animal Crossing game, which came out a little over two weeks ago to ecstatic reviews from fans and video game critics alike. Catching up on fun television shows has also been a great way to relax for our contributors, with one of them even being kind enough to give us her top recommendations: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Derry Girls and That 70s Show, in that order. All three are even available on Netflix Ireland: what more can we possibly ask for? So, don’t feel guilty if you can’t be your normal self right now: follow our contributors’ example and find the happiness in true, unapologetic rest.
If there is one lesson to take away from these answers, it is how easily we can find happiness in the little things. None of the answers we received mentioned extravagant things: instead, it seems that people have been finding comfort in the parts of everyday life that we sometimes take for granted. This is not a time to be hard on yourself, and if you are struggling with finding motivation, we hope that this small list of things that kept other people happy gave you some inspiration for making the best out of this difficult time. We would like to thank everyone that contributed to this article, and if you didn’t, we would love to hear from you: so tell us, what’s the last thing that made you smile?