Coronavirus: 10 science-backed ways to find happiness during trying times

On the surface, these are not joyful times. They are hard times. We can’t see family, we can’t meet friends, we can’t travel and we can’t get physically close to people (hugs make humans thrive!). So, it’s pretty rough out there right now.

Happiness, being subjective and relative, is hard to define. However, can roughly be explained as a combination of things that make life worth living.

But if you dig a little deeper, you can work on your happiness and find joy in the little moments.

Here are ten science-backed ways to help you become happier in your life.

1. Practise gratitude

I immediately feel very lame saying this, but it really does work wonders. All you have to do is think about the good things in your life. Be thankful that you have your health. Be thankful for the fact that you are in a safe country. You have a home and a bed. Be thankful for your friends, your parents, your kids or your spouse. It’s important to feel lucky to be alive. And once you start appreciating the simple things about your life, you immediately feel happy.

I once interviewed a recovered corona patient, who said to me, “I appreciate the fact that I can breathe without tubes in my throat. I can breathe and that is a blessing to me.”

2. Practise something challenging

Whether you are learning a new instrument or learning how to do a handstand, doing something that, you can work on and improve on every day will send endorphins (happy hormones) to your brain. So make sure to challenge yourself, while you are stuck at home.

Great homebound activities to learn are yoga, painting, an instrument or a language.

3. Force yourself to smile

Even if you don’t feel like it, plastering a smile on your face will trick your brain into thinking that you are happy and your mood will instantly get a lift. Do this especially if you live with other people. You don’t want to constantly be grumpy. If that doesn’t work, then watch a funny or cheerful YouTube video to relax your facial muscles and give you a chance to smile.

4. Connect with another person

The one thing that really makes humans happy is connecting with others. Whether it’s with a family member, a partner or a friend. If you aren’t happy, just pick up the phone or jump on Zoom and call someone to feel connected.

5. Stop procrastinating

People who don’t ‘put things off until tomorrow’ are generally happier, as they have a proactive attitude and don’t waste time, even though you think you have a lot of it. Very often completing a task will leave people feeling accomplished and proud, thus making them feel happy.

Under normal circumstances, if you procrastinate long enough, eventually you’ll run out of time and you would’ve missed the chance to get things done. But now, being at home you eventually get bored of doing nothing and procrastination feels slow and unproductive, so it forces you to get up and do things just to avoid sitting and doing nothing.

6. Be intellectually curious

Reading books about complex topics or watching documentaries that explain how the world works, is a trait that most happy people have. Happy people are curious about intellectual topics and enjoy meaningful conversations with others. Rather than talking about other people or discussing things they did during the day, the happiest peoples are ones who discuss ideas and plans.

7. Be open to new experiences

Whether you have a new dish delivered to your home from a restaurant or you buy yourself a puzzle after never having done one before, new experiences make people feel a lot happier than those who just go on with their days without doing anything new.

Now is the time to live on the edge, (but at home).

8. Physical affection

According to Virginia Satir, a respected American therapist, people need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance and twelve hugs for growth. The trickle-down effect of the oxytocin release following a hug can reduce stress and elevate your mood. Obviously, we can’t exactly go around hugging people, but if you live with your family, kids or your spouse, make sure you show them physical affection when you can.

9. Compassion

Scientists have proven that those who are interested in other peoples’ lives, stories and problems are usually a lot happier than those who are only concerned with themselves. Communicating and connecting with others makes human beings thrive. Compassionate people also tend to do random acts of kindness for people they love and also for strangers. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with their life.

10. Work on strengthening your relationships

The famous 75-yearlong Harvard study of 268 undergraduate males looked at life from every aspect, ranging from lifestyle to political views in order to find out what made human beings happy.

The most important finding of the unique study was that relationships are the only thing that matter if you want to have a fulfilled and happy life. Nurture your closest relationships and let go of toxic ones. Work on them every day. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Knowing that there are people out there looking out for you and who love you, will let you go to sleep with a lighter heart.