With our heads filled with viruses and lockdowns, closures and our finances, it’s hard to stay positive. Added to that are reports from medical professionals warning us of the effects of lockdown on our mental health. If you feel there are doom and gloom around every corner, here are some quick tips on how to find happiness in these times.
How to find the happy – get lost in books
One of the plus points of lockdown and not having such a busy social calendar is being able to devote your time to things like reading. In fact, it’s probably one of the only times in your life where you don’t have to feel guilty doing nothing. And the best thing about reading is that it’s completely personal to you. Maybe you’re working your way through the classics, or the booker prize lists. Maybe you want pure escapism when you read?
A 2013 study of patients with mild depression, saw their condition improve when they read more. New research by Oxford University Press suggests that reading classic works by Shakespeare or Dickens can not only give you a brain boost but relieve chronic pain, depression and dementia. If Dickens isn’t your thing, try these feel-good books to get you started:
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
A mesmerizing journey through old Hollywood glamour, which follows the life of reclusive starlet Evelyn Hugo. Expect the old charm of Hollywood set against the struggles of being a woman.
Lillian Boxfish takes a walk, by Kathleen Rooney
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1984 and 84-year-old Lillian takes a walk around New York City. This is the tale of the people she meets as she looks back on her life.
The Sleepwalkers Guide to dancing, by Mira Jacob
When Amina’s father starts talking to relatives who aren’t there, she travels from Seattle to her childhood home in India to find out what is going on. A family saga and a must-read.
How to find the happy – enjoy the space and quiet
Our family calendar used to be full to the brim, but now it sits empty on the wall, with no future plans, dinners out, birthday parties or holidays marked. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the lack of plans but to also relish the quiet space we have all been given. Plenty of people report loving not having to commute to work, rush to meetings, drive children to after-school clubs or spend money on relentless socialising.
Relish the space
Love or hate working from home, it is handy to get through the washing pile whilst you Zoom-call work. Despite the loneliness and worry about the virus, many people will look back fondly at this time when life calmed down and you had space to try new things. Maybe it’s getting the bones of an idea for a new business, or perhaps it’s having a house clearout/redecorate. Lots of us have been really productive at work because we’ve had space to do so. The trick is to use the space we suddenly have wisely – if you find yourself watching lots of TV, make a list of the top classic films you want to watch and work your way through. Eating your way through lockdown? Why not decide to make pasta from scratch or perfect a killer chocolate cake.
How to find the happy – learn something new
Following on from the point above, where we have more time on our hands than ever before, why not learn a new skill? And we don’t mean the sourdough craze! Choose something that you normally wouldn’t have time to master like learning a language, or an online gardening course or doing the degree you always said you’d do with Open University. If that seems too much of a challenge, learn to knit or crochet, really well. Then surprise everyone with all the things you’ve made!
Get Duo Lingo – the app on your phone that teaches you a new language through bitesize manageable lessons. Stick to the reminders and you’ll be surprised at what 10 minutes a day practise can do.
Open University – Study part-time alongside your normal job, or full-time if you can. Choose certificates, diplomas or degrees in a wide range of subjects.
Check out the beginner courses at The School of Stitched Textiles – Learn to knit, crochet, quilt, embroidery or drawing skills in these online courses.
From Home Gardening to learning about trees – if lockdown has put you in touch with nature, why not go one step further!
How to find the happy – find unusual ways to connect with your friends
Whether you’re allowed to meet up for a quick walk with a friend or not, we all miss getting together with a group of good friends to chew the fat. Here are some inventive ways to get together and have some of the fun you’re used to:
Try a Murder Mystery evening over Zoom! Assign each person a character, dress up and bring along your investigative skills!!!
Virtual Monopoly! Download the app and play virtual Monopoly with friends and family – no more faffing with paper banknotes either as its all digital!
Jackbox Games allows you to invite 1-8 people to play along with you on drawing games, writing games, trivia games, hidden identity games – all quirky and different!
How to find the happy – embrace nature
The virus may have stopped our lifestyles for a while, but nothing stops nature. If you are one of many people who re-found nature in the first lockdown you will have enjoyed watching the seasons change, the trees lose their leaves and the birds disappear as they migrate to warmer climates. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, spending just twenty minutes in nature every day lowers our cortisol levels dramatically. Another study showed spending just two hours or more in nature every week increases your sense of wellbeing.
What better excuse to get out for a daily walk and notice everything around you. Lockdown is forcing us to slow down and pay attention to the green spaces around us. Start a nature journal and record what you see every day. Learn the names of the trees around you or download the app Birdsong id – basically the Shazam for birdsong. Play a bird song into it and it will identify the bird for you.
How to find the happy – Mediation and yoga
Evidence shows yoga and meditation can lower blood pressure, help with depression and stress and can be beneficial for a myriad of physical ailments including lower back and period pain. The best thing about yoga is that anyone can do it. If you’re pregnant, have medical conditions or you’re a complete beginner – search for the yoga that suits you. As well as giving you strength and flexibility it also helps you sleep, focuses your mind and helps with your sense of wellbeing. There are plenty of free yoga classes online, try Karen Dubs, Yoga with Adrienne or Do Yoga with Me for a variety of classes.
How to find the happy – Treasure your experiences
Nobody claims we’re having an easy time at the moment, but it’s still, nonetheless a life experience. Notice the goodness in the situation we have found ourselves in. Has your community pulled together to help others in the area? Has a friend organised an online quiz for everyone’s enjoyment? Do you relish the ‘walks’ you are allowed with one friend?
When things are taken away it makes us miss them more, but we can cherish these quiet times too. Have you talked to a long-lost friend on the phone or reached an exercise goal you’ve been meaning to conquer for ages? When things get back to normal (and they will!) you may even look back on this time and long for the quiet solitude! Write down three things you’ve gained from this year. Maybe it’s spending more time with your family or learning to play chess. Now write down three things you can still learn. Now, go learn.
How to find the happy – Plan for cheerier times
Happier more social times will return so there’s no harm in planning for the future. Plan your next holiday in minute detail – research where you’ll go, what you’ll eat and who you’ll see. Walk around your favourite places on google maps so you know what to expect. Next, plan your post lockdown dinner party. Who will you invite and what will you cook. Plan the menu now and tell your guests they are invited but the date is to be confirmed! Make fancy place settings and watch online tutorials to make a spectacular dessert. Feeling excited yet? Hold on tight, we’re nearly there….