Seeking happiness in troubled times

Longing for happiness in troubled times is not at all, unheard-of.  Throughout life we quickly learn that physical health is not the only part of our being at risk. We grow up, bravely trucking through every scratch and scrape.

We equally grow up to know the scars of our hearts.

seeking happiness

In this changing world and our changing environments, we find ourselves detached. Many of us are going through strained personal relationships with loved ones. Some are fighting relationships within our selves. Whatever your situation, you are not alone. There are ways to combat these feelings with support from loved ones or like minded others in the same position.

Am I the only one?

It is safe to say that 2020 has had damaging effects on mental health across the world. Natural interaction is becoming less and less natural. But, now more than ever we musn’t give up.

Research at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) show more than 33% of adults 45 and older feel lonely.

Close to 25% of adults 65 and up are considered to be socially isolated. This does not include numbers resulting from covid-19.

Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation. They are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

How does isolation really effect us?

Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. This comes as no surprise.

On the other hand, social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes. All causes. This is a risk that rivals smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. It cannot be taken lightly.

If you feel like loneliness and isolation are coming to a point that has been taken too far, getting help is the best resolution. Reach out to family, friends, or a counselor you can trust. Any type of support system will offset feelings of isolation.

The lonely heart.

Poor social relationships, social isolation, and loneliness are associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

Loneliness among heart failure patients is correlated with an increased risk of death by nearly 4 times, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

It is paramount that we take steps to reclaim our happiness in troubled times.

What happens to our happiness in troubled times?

We tend to neglect our happiness, prioritizing our focus on issues that are seemingly more urgent. It is easy to say every thing is more important than taking that one precious moment I need and want. There simply isn’t time.

You have to make time.

The importance of creating happiness.

Cultivating individual happiness is more important than we think. It has direct implications to our mood, emotional state, and productivity. A study on the predictive effects of happiness on life satisfaction found that happiness boosts creativity, work performance, and overall mood while reducing stress.

happiness sidewalk

These attributes are increasingly crucial as many of us are adapting to a dynamic work environment.

How do I reclaim my happiness mid-turmoil?

Finding happiness is different for everyone. It depends on your likes and dislikes. Using the resources that are available to most of us, there are some simple actions we can take to achieve happiness on a daily basis. These things can be done in time of trouble or in simple times of stress. Remember to use your own take in these suggestions. The sky is the limit.

5 research backed ways to boost happiness in troubled times:

1. Enjoy the Outdoors.

Make an effort to experience the outdoors and explore nature. Outdoor spaces in Pittsburgh, like Frick and Schenley Park, provide places we can hammock, toss a frisbee, exercise, or simply take a breath of fresh air.

Outdoor experiences help prevent the mind from wandering and restore focus. Additionally, these activities provide a change of pace to our lives cooped up in the confines of our homes.

2. Plan Out the Day – Make a list, fill out your calendar.

This may seem like a meaningless activity to most but there’s a considerable amount of happiness to gain from planning out the activities for the day (even if they are limited to inside the home).

We gain utility from the anticipation that comes along with planning out things like when to continue binge-watching our favorite series on Netflix or cook that new recipe that we always wanted to try out but never got around to doing.

We gain additional utility from looking back on these experiences and remembering the excitement and joy we felt.

3. Interact with Friends.

In a time where we feel increasingly separated from friends and family, it is more important than ever to connect with them and meet new people.

Nowadays, there are more means to stay connected than previously known. We can use Zoom, FaceTime, or one of the many social media apps to keep in touch with our friends and catch up on what they’re up to.

Plan out to meet in local parks or other outdoor areas. It’s been shown that shared experiences are conducive to happiness. They elicit feelings of togetherness, facilitate meaningful relationships, and broaden one’s sense of purpose.

4. Help Out Local Businesses.

Although many of us are reeling from the financial distress brought on by this pandemic, it is increasingly important to give back to the community.

Try to support local businesses by getting delivery, take-out, or curbside pickup from local restaurants and retailers. Using money to benefit others rather than oneself has been shown to improve one’s own happiness.

Dunn, Atkin, and Norton note that spending money on others promotes prosocial behaviors linked to happiness such as fortifying interpersonal relationships.

5. Reframe the Situation – A positive outlook is key.

Our daily routines have received quite a shock from the public health and safety guidelines so drastically brought upon us.

The way we decide to frame our present situation makes a world of difference as far as our happiness is concerned. We should prioritize focusing on the positive rather than the negative.

happy boy

Don’t focus on the financial strains or hardships. Look at this as an opportunity to spend time with the family. Catch up on a book you’ve always wanted to finish or finally learn how to cook.

This new outlook will improve productivity, leading to a more successful experience during time of strife.

alexandria-billy-picture
Alexandria Billy
B.S.Ed ,M.S. Ed

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