The power of connection and community – and how to be happier!
How are you? Now take a moment…how *are* you? This time round, I think lockdown feels harder and it’s a feeling I’m hearing quite a lot. Certainly my kids are struggling with endless Teams calls (we all know how that feels!) and in meetings people that I’m talking with are saying the same. Maybe it’s the damp and cold weather, maybe it’s the fact that somehow we feel like we’ve lost a year or maybe it’s just been too long without seeing (and hugging!) our friends and family. But it’s hard at the moment for many of us.
Connection and community are two of the things I think we’re missing the most right now. I regularly listen to Ranjan Chatterjee’s podcast – Feel Better, Live More – and last week he talked with Professor Laurie Santos from Yale University about happiness. It might sound a bit twee, but happier people actually fight disease better and live longer, so twee or not I think there’s something we can all learn about her research. Professor Santos started off by running a course at Yale for her students as she could see so many of them suffering with depression and anxiety. It’s now released on Coursera as The Science of Well Being and is free to take part in. Over 3 million people have signed up for it since the pandemic which I think gives a clear message about how many of us are feeling!
Professor Santos describes happiness as being happy ‘with your life’ and ‘in your life’. ‘With your life’ relates to the big things – being happy with your relationship, family situation, where you live, your job and so on. These are things that we sometimes feel like we can’t be happy without and even put off feeling happy until we have them. But ‘In your life’ happiness is the day to day – having a conversation with the barista who makes your coffee, speaking to someone while you’re out walking the dogs, chatting to a friend. And in the pandemic, these little daily interactions are the things we’re missing out on without perhaps realising it. And she says that trying to find these, really helps.
The other thing that makes us feel better is doing something for others. Turns out that actively helping someone or doing something kind is a real win:win. It is as positive in terms of happiness to the giver as the receiver. I tried this the other day by buying the coffee of the car behind me on my Starbucks run after someone did it for me a couple of weeks ago. When someone bought my coffee it literally made my day – I couldn’t believe it! But when I bought coffee for someone else, I felt just as good. Give it a go!
Giving back is something I’ve tried to bring into my life even more since I started working for myself again in 2019. Last year I was delighted to be able to make a decent donation to Mermaids, a charity that supports transgender children and their families. And this year, I bought 5 refurbished laptops for my local school after seeing a cry for help on LinkedIn from Jo Midgley. When I dropped them off, I saw the lovely collage that I’ve used as the picture for this blog post and quote from Maya Angelou.
Right now, I think we’re all missing our social connection. So, I’d encourage you to find someone you can help or do a random act of kindness for. Be the rainbow in somebody else’s cloud – and spread a little happiness!
(Apologies, I couldn’t think of a way to end this that wasn’t totally cheesy! :))
Social distancing makes for the worst ever photos!