Reasons for positivity during the crisis
If there was ever a time to celebrate mini-moments of happiness, this must surely be it! Any positive vibes we can manage to generate will help balance out the negative effects of the increased stress we are all under.
So how can it be possible to weave moments of happiness into our lives when everything we see, hear, read about and have to do at the moment seems to be generating stress?
Appreciate the small things
Even under the limitations of living in lockdown, we can always find an opportunity to capture and savour some of those little moments of happiness that maybe we never stopped and appreciated before: the quietness in the early morning, the sounds of birdsong and the colours of nature. If we can stop and absorb these moments, rather then letting them rush by unnoticed, we give our brain a chance to process those pleasures and that in turn boosts the levels of the feel-good-hormone serotonin which calms us and lifts our mood.
For families in lockdown now is an opportunity to spend time together and reap those benefits. Surprise your children or partner with an unexpected, but much appreciated hug, and then do it regularly; find time for a proper conversation and really try to listen to one another. Small gestures like these promote closeness and boost levels of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, which further strengthens those bonds and helps to reestablish that positive outlook and compassion which we all know is starting to wear a bit thin. Physical touch lowers our heart rate and our blood pressure, reducing the production of cortisol and boosting our immune system and affectionate touch also helps reduce our feelings of social isolation.
Being forced to stay at home has slowed down the pace of a lot of our lives. Some of us are benefiting from this by reawakening our creative juices, restarting abandoned hobbies, learning a new language, baking (if you can find any flour!), listening to music or dusting off that guitar we always promised we would learn. Creative activities can get us into ‘the zone’ when work simply flows out of us and we are at our most creative, productive and happy. Being creative is another way of reducing stress and improving our quality of life. And imagine what a positive outcome it would be for those creative activities to remain as a part of our post-COVID lives.
We are seeing and reading about wonderful acts of kindness and generosity everywhere as our inherent human goodness comes to the fore: NHS staff and key workers working tirelessly around the clock; volunteers giving their time for others; communities coming together to find ways to help those who need it most; the public staying at home so as not to overwhelm our health service and hotels opening their doors to NHS staff who need to self-isolate, laundering hospital uniforms and opening their door for people who sleep rough and neighbours are being neighbourly.
Being kind is a selfless act but you might be surprised to find that it also has health benefits. It makes us happier, keeps our hearts healthy, creates better relationships and it is contagious. We are all a bit overwhelmed by the negative effects of coronavirus at the moment but if we can make the effort to be kind then we inspire others to be kind, creating a ripple that spreads outwards touching other lives and inspiring kindness everywhere it goes.
The power of humour
A good joke has great psychological benefits and that's especially true in these anxious times.
Our emotions are also contagious and we can positively infect others with our good mood or happiness. Whether we are upbeat in person (keeping 2 metres apart!), over the phone or via social media, those auditory and visual components activate the recipient's brain triggering positive emotions and improving their mood.
The power of the positive
If somehow we can generate our own positive vibes or benefit from those generated by others then, when we find ourselves in a stressful environment, we can recover from those pressures more quickly. Being positive actually makes problem-solving easier: it improves our decision-making and increases our creativity. Staying positive can help us conjure up solutions to the myriad of little, and not so little, problems coming our way.
A crisis can bring out the best in humans and if we start to believe that we can tune into some of these positive elements then maybe we can all connect in a common positive purpose and future.
So smiling makes you feel better and everyone looks better when they smile.