Not everyone has been miserable during this quarantine period. In fact, despite the widespread economic hardship, loss of life, and social restrictions, a noticeable number of us report feeling happy. According to a recent Gallup Poll during the pandemic, 67% of respondents in the US reported feeling happy the pervious day.
This is not how things were pre-epidemic. In the 2019 World Happiness Report, negative feelings had been rising in double-digits around the world—and the United States being particularly hard-hit with an “epidemic of addictions.” Obviously, there is a lot we can learn from this shift, about what makes us happy, and how to connect to that happy feeling more intentionally and regularly – now and in the future.
One of the biggest inhibitors of happiness is low-level, chronic stress. Although many people are stressed today, with economic and health concerns, there are other common stressors, such as traffic, childcare, countless outside commitments and long hours in the office, that have been put on hold.
The result is a more moderate pace. Meals with the family, more rest, and greater freedom of how time is spent, have allowed us to slow down and feel more relaxed. That relaxation creates a heightened sense of ease and satisfaction, which contributes to happiness.
When there is greater distance from the demands and opinions of others it is easier to get in touch with what we truly want. Our inner desires and wisdom are easier to recognize. We feel less pressure to ignore our feelings and needs in order to get along or meet expectations.
Not only that, during social distancing we spend more time by ourselves without distraction or interruption. This time is invaluable to our personal happiness, since it is impossible to be happy if we are uncertain what we really want for ourselves.
Many organizations and relationships have not withstood the economic and social circumstances. When internal dysfunctions, misalignments, or misappropriation of resources exist, and all margins are removed, problems are unavoidable. The result is a clearing effect. Competition is reduced. Choices are streamlined. High-performing individuals rise into leadership.
On an individual level, excuses lose their appeal. Denial and avoidance are also difficult to maintain. Where we were distracting ourselves from problems before, we can now make powerful choices based on reality.
This recognition of what is actually working, and letting go of what is not, frees up tremendous energy for the functional activities, relationships and organizations. Again, the fulfillment created as a result is a necessary component for happiness.
It’s Not Black and White
Although 67% of the Gallup respondents experienced happiness the day before, many of the same individuals also noted negative emotions in the same timeframe. It is part of the human experience to experience a wide spectrum of emotion, which fluctuates constantly. Happiness can, in fact, coexist in us alongside other feelings.
It is also true that when one person is happy, that does not detract from the happiness available to anyone else at the same time. The same idea applies to sadness and grief. Although some who are feeling happy during quarantine admit also feeling guilt over their upbeat emotions in light of others’ suffering, their happiness is independent of anyone else’s feelings.
Happiness never comes at another’s expense.
We are creative beings. The arts are only one channel of creation. Starting a business, having a child, coaching a team, or making a delicious meal are all creative efforts. A popular social media meme references the great works, such as Shakespeare’s King Lear, that were developed during the plague. When distractions are removed, we definitely have more chance to nurture our gifts and talents.
This creative expression is yet another source of personal happiness. When we spend time zoning out from stressful situations, we also have less time to invest in what brings us joy. Creative activities tend to cause us to lose track of time, and not only elevate our mood, they are better stress relievers than many of our more modern relaxation go-to’s.
The best part about each of these happiness creators is that none of them require Covid-19. In this time of pause, we have the chance to learn all over again what it is that gives us lasting happiness. Hopefully we will not lose this fresh awareness we have been given.