I write articles for the platform Medium, I will try and put some here, but feel free to follow me :) Check this article there and others I have written: https://medium.com/@katarinamiketin/how-to-be-happier-right-now-part-i-2d20485e7a25 )
After writing my last article, I realized that life has slowed down. With that slowness, many people are facing a scary reality, who are they without the busyness of running to an office, the coffee shop, drinks, eating out, kids' activities, and everything else that occupies our minds and keeps it busy until we fall onto our bed in absolute exhaustion?
As the French novelist, Colette once wrote, “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I realized it sooner”
An ancient Zen story exemplifies this struggle in the image of a man and a horse. The horse is said to be galloping at a high speed with a man atop of it. To all who are observing the man riding the horse, it appears he must be going somewhere very important (why else would he be in such a hurry). While riding down a dirt road an onlooker yells to the man, “Where are you going?” and the man yells back, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
We are all on our proverbial horses, we aren’t sure what our end destination is, but we think we must ride as hard as possible to get there. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We are at war within ourselves…” He continues to say, “We have to learn the art of stopping — stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace.”
“When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
We are now in a forced slow down. To many, this is hell. Limitations to our lives have been invoked to protect ourselves from ourselves. I wonder, if we didn’t have these limitations/regulations/laws would we self-regulate, self-quarantine ourselves? I argue that I don’t think it is possible, at least not in America and not in the world we are living in where we must keep up with the Jones’.
We fill every waking moment with something to occupy our mind, this is what we have evolved to be, but are we happy? According to the 2019 World Happiness Report, “Negative feelings are rising around the world — and the United States is particularly hard-hit...” This was written in March of 2019, approximately one year prior to COVID. This scale is from 0–10, from the worst possible life to the best possible life. The United States’ average score was 6.9, ranking it at #19 (Finland was at the top with 7.769).
The report goes back to 2005 and shows an increase in worrying, sadness, and anger, which have risen 27% from 2010 to 2018.
Great, you say, now I am more depressed! The reason I put those statistics in this article is to have a baseline of where we were pre-COVID-19. It is no wonder that, for the majority of people, things have become worse since we have all become isolated. Depression, anxiety, and a plethora of mental health concerns have spiked.
We are all angry/frustrated/sad/scared and so much more right now. We have been told that if you are angry you should release that anger. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Don’t punch a pillow, don’t scream out loud, don’t go online and bully someone, it won’t help you. Maybe you will feel better for five minutes and then you feel crappy again. You need to PROCESS that anger, sadness, frustration, or loneliness, and ask each one of them (as corny as it may sound), “Why are you here”? Why am I angry right now? Then question what happened. Did someone make you angry? No one can “make” you feel a certain way, so they say, but people sure are good at knowing what your hot points are (I always get frustrated when my sister, a psychotherapist, says those words to me and my retort is, “Well, they are a bunch of assholes. How can I not want to cry when they are mean to me?”)
She often reminds me to think through the situation. Why did it make me/you angry? Is now a good time to talk or can you tell them that you are not in the right state-of-mind to talk and that you don’t want to say something that could be hurtful to them? Please don’t look toward food, alcohol, drugs, tv, social media, or any other mind-numbing activity.
In order to start your journey to be happier, you must first recognize what you are feeling. For instance, today I feel frustrated. I have had to sit at home all day ( I was planning on going for a hike) because my neck is killing me (I have chronic neck pain). So, I have acknowledged that I am frustrated, but instead of ruminating on this frustration, I have chosen to do things that have been proven to help improve my mood. I chose to do yoga this morning, read a book, journal, and talk to my sister.
According to research other activities that can improve your mood include:
Be grateful. Acknowledge what you are grateful for by starting a gratitude journal.
Volunteer! Even with social distancing, there are opportunities to volunteer. According to Berkley’s Greater Good, “Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. Additionally, the researchers found that people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.”¹
Show compassion. Remember, we are all humans. We are chock-full of faults and we have to be a bit more patient nowadays. If you feel anger rising within you, step away from the situation and take a personal time-out. You will feel proud of yourself for controlling your anger (even if the person deserved it!)
Go outside. If you are able to, go for a walk or a hike. Lay down and look at the clouds like a kid. Even if it is 30 seconds, you will start to re-center yourself.
Exercise. Find a video on YouTube, there are a ton out there.
Read a book.
Play a board game, build a fort, or have a water balloon fight with your child or children.
These are just a few ideas and Part I of my series on happiness. I am here for you and there are plenty of people feeling how you are feeling right now. Get online and join a positive movement.