It might surprise you to know that one of the best ways to be happier in this Covid-19 era is to grieve. That’s because all our emotions flow out of the same metaphorical tap. You can’t shut off the grief flow without also shutting down your capacity to feel truly happy. As Golda Meir put it, “Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.” And these days, most all of us have multiple things to weep about, from losing a loved one or a job, to missing graduation or a vacation, or just plain wishing you could go back to a neighborhood restaurant. On whatever level, the sadness is real. So feel it. The last thing anyone needs right now is to feel guilty or less than because they’re feeling upset rather than happy. Honor the reality of the moment.
And … don’t stay there longer than you need to. Indeed, even in the midst of grief, anger, or fear, you can still engage in uplifting, happiness activities. Practicing gratitude is a prime example. I have days when I cry, for sure, but I also write down three things for which I am grateful every evening. Time magazine once noted, “Showing gratitude for the good things you have is the most powerful happiness boosting activity there is.” And don’t worry about being grateful for the same people or things over and over. It’s not the words you write – it’s the feeling behind them that counts.
Also near the top of the happiness tools list is meditation. I’ve taught many secular meditation classes, and now more than ever I’m hearing back from my students that meditation is helping them feel better. Me, too! Whenever I feel grumpy or just plain out-of-kilter, I know it’s time to meditate. If you don’t know how to meditate, no worries: try one of Barbara Fredrickson’s guided meditations. Just sit back, let her words wash over and through you, and voila! You are meditating! https://www.positivityresonance.com/meditations.html.
Two powerful happiness factors are meaning and pleasure. No doubt, we feel better when our life has a sense of purpose – but don’t worry about making it too big! We’re all just humans, doing our best. Sew a few masks, stay home, do an errand for someone. You’ll feel better. And then, remember that we humans are designed for pleasure! Maybe some chocolate? Or a bubble bath?
Here’s a few more suggestions:
- Garden. Digging in the dirt not only brings pleasure and meaning, but actually literally releases microbes that have an anti-depressant effect on the human brain!
- Learn something new. Humans have big brains and it makes us happy to use them. The learning doesn’t have to be big! Your choice. Do what makes you happy.
- Appreciate beauty. Wherever you can see, imagine or remember beauty, seize the opportunity. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says that actually alters our brain waves, “taking us to a place of relaxation, as well as happiness.”
- Sing! So many online videos or CDs to sing along to. Sing on your balcony or in the shower. And/or: dance! Physical exercise and music are both so good for our spirits. What could be better than dancing during this time of staying home?
One last suggestion, the biggie: love. Love comes in many guises; in fact, the Greeks defined seven different types of love. My favorite is agape, the big universal love. I think we’re seeing a lot of that these days. We can’t control what love we receive, but we can all send a big old pile of love out into the world. That will make us all happier.
By Ginny Sassaman, GNHUSA Advisory Board Member and author of Preaching Happiness: Creating a Just and Joyful World https://www.rootstockpublishing.com/rootstock-books/preaching-happiness)