How to find happiness during the summer of 2020

July 09, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

As the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey shows another victim of the pandemic may be our happiness.

The survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that our happiness is at a 50-year low with just 14 percent of Americans saying they are very happy.

In 2018, that number was 31 percent. In that same year, 23 percent of adults reported feeling isolated. According to the survey taken in May 2020, before any civil unrest, nearly half of Americans reported feeling isolated.

It’s not surprising that more of us are feeling unhappy and alone. The pandemic and all the changes (and uncertainty) it has brought have certainly been challenging.

“People are emotionally deflated by what’s taking place,” says Marc Browning, RN, PsyD, director of the Linden Oaks Medical Group Counseling Center.

What can we do?

A good part of finding joy in difficult times comes from reframing how we look at things, says Browning. Instead of looking at happiness as a result, look at it as a journey.

Earning an advanced degree, for example, takes hard work and at times may not be enjoyable, but when you earn that degree you take joy in achieving your goal and the unique experiences in the process.

“Life is a journey; not a destination,” says Browning.

Browning refers to a few key quotes to help refocus and find joy even during difficult times:

  • “Adversity is the doorway to opportunity.”Many Americans have had to adapt to working from home and making use of technology or apps that they may not have had to use in the office. Consider your time at home as an opportunity to try something new, like learning a new language or picking up a hobby, rather than a restriction from the virus.

  • “Service helps overcome depression.”Browning notes that depression settles in when we have a myopic view of our own situation. Instead, why not use your gifts and talents to help others? Not only will you be helping someone else, it will help lift your own spirits. Learn ways to help during the pandemic.

  • “Activity or initiative diminishes anxiety.” Rather than focus on the what-ifs, set your sights on something you can do and work to accomplish that goal.

  • “It takes as much energy to worry as it does to pray.” Browning notes that someone once compared worrying to being in a rocking chair.

  • “There’s a lot of activity but you’re not going anywhere.” Turning to your faith or taking time to reflect instead of playing out a scenario in your head repeatedly can help refocus your energy.

Even with all those tools in place, it’s likely you’ll still have some feelings of stress or anxiety, says Browning. That’s OK.

“We need to be honest and authentic and give ourselves opportunities to feel,” he says.

In those instances, find someone you can be real with and talk it out and then work to find a way back to a place where you can reframe your thoughts.

“We have control over our thoughts,” says Browning. “Focus on constructive, worthwhile, noteworthy things. Doing that helps alter our attitude and our thought process in a constructive direction.”

Using a sports example, Browning notes that golfers focus on the pin placement — not the water, sand traps or tall grass — when teeing up their shot.

“A lot of where we ultimately end up is where we focus our attention,” he says.

For some, dealing with the stress of the pandemic and other factors can be overwhelming. When depression or anxiety affects your ability to take part in your daily routine, such as getting to work or partaking in activities you had found enjoyable, reaching out to a counselor can help.

Learn more about our behavioral health services.

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