Finding Happiness in the Midst of Crisis

Let’s be honest. The past year has been challenging. We have faced a pandemic that has turned our world upside down. We have lived through one of the most, if not the most, politically charged environments of our lifetime. Some have lost jobs and businesses. Others have lost loved ones. To one degree or another, we have all lost social connection and community. So, what can we do to be happy (or contented) and feel connected during these difficult times?
Shawn Achor, the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, posits that, during our darkest times, we need optimism, gratitude, and connection. Achor offers simple daily practices to increase our happiness quotient. By engaging in these daily practices, we rewire our brains to become more positive. Achor suggests picking one or more of the following activities:

  • Gratitude Exercises. Write down three things that you’re grateful for every day. They don’t have to be profound but do need to be different each day. It can be something as simple as a good meal or a phone call with a friend. When we scan our environment for positive experiences, we retrain our brain so that it becomes a habit.
  • Acts of Kindness. Sometime during your day, take a minute to send a short e-mail or text praising, complimenting or expressing gratitude to someone. Or practice a random act of kindness. I’ll always remember the lawyer at the Register of Deeds who carried around a pocket full of peppermints and handed them out to everyone that he encountered. By making others feel good, it makes you feel good. It has the added benefit of social connection, which Achor has shown to be one of the most reliable indicators for success and happiness.
  • Meditation. Set aside a few minutes each day to get quiet and just listen to your breath. Numerous studies have linked happiness to mindfulness practices.
  • Exercise. Spend 15 minutes or more each day engaging in some form of cardio activity. Just be sure to find something that you enjoy and run with it.
  • Find Social Connection. This can be tricky with Covid restrictions. However, it is still possible and essential. Establish a routine of calling family members or friends. Join on-line groups that focus on positivity and growth. Find a faith community that offers on-line connection. Join an outdoor spin or yoga class.
Nothing here is meant to suggest that, if we just engage in these daily practices, we will walk around in a constant state of joy. In my opinion, joy is overrated and is often confused with happiness. Joy is a temporary emotion that is not sustainable. Contentment, on the other hand, is a more realistic goal. Contentment allows us to experience the full range of emotions and challenges and bounce back with resilience. If practiced regularly, the suggestions above have the capacity to change our lives in meaningful ways and help us get through this challenging time.

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