Feeling a little low right now? I hear ya. It being World Mental Health Awareness Week and we’re mid Covid-19.
Any and all emotions are totally understandable right now, but I’d like to share some tactics that may help you feel a little happier, the main reference being the currently free Science of Wellbeing course on Coursera. You can do them all from home too and I reckon you’ll find some of them useful.
Of course, first a caveat! Happiness means different things to different people and is a really deep thing. However, nothing ventured and all that…
I’ll explain something called hedonic adaptation after this section, but the following 4 things can be useful to help negate the influence of it and make you a little happier and content with the present.
This is the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it. Basically being a little more mindful during it, which can help you feel the experience more, making it more enjoyable. For example, make a cup of tea, sit down, close your eyes and take a sip of tea and just enjoy the texture of it as you drink it. It’ll feel a little more special than normal. Some of the other things that enhance savouring are talking to another person about it (‘I had a lovely cuppa earlier!’) and even just thinking — ‘how lucky am I to be sitting here having a nice cup of tea’. Try it with something and see.
2. Negative visualisation
Sounds odd I know, but this is closing your eyes and visualising things that are a lot worse than your current situation. It can help you feel a little more grateful for what you have now. For example, imagining you were alone on a desert island right now, mosquitos everywhere, with no equipment, you don’t know how to build a hut, it is 40 degrees, you haven’t eaten in a week, your lips are as dry as FFff and there was a sandstorm. Yeeesh! Right now may not feel so bad.
Best way to try this is to literally write a list of 5–10 things you are grateful for, could be anything! Then read the list and think about it for a couple of minutes. This can help give you a positive boost. I do this regularly — I’m sitting down right now and enjoying the feeling of the carpet in my living room on my bare feet. Sometimes it really is just the little things. Sharing gratitude with others is incredibly powerful also. Just messaging 5 close friends or family members saying you are grateful to know them will lead to some nice positive things, I have no doubt, as have done it myself recently.
4. Make this day your last
This isn’t a call to go crazy or a doomsday scenario! It’s more to think, imagine this person wasn’t here tomorrow or imagine I wasn’t able to go for a run tomorrow ever again. It can help you appreciate things you have a little more and may help you to focus on spending some more time on things, experiences or people you enjoy. Imagine from tomorrow (this is during lockdown) you couldn’t video call anyone. It might spark in your head some people you’d enjoy talking to and seeing before that happened, which you may enjoy if you end up doing it.
I’m glad you asked! In short, it is the tendency we have to quickly get used to things, be it good or bad, which can mean that we start to search for new things or new experiences that we think will make us happier, rather than being a little happier and content with what we already have. For example, you could try savouring with that new X,Y,Z you got for yourself for your birthday 2 years ago and haven’t touched since (remember the anticipation you had before getting it?), grab it, turn off your phone and for an hour enjoy whatever it is. I have an old Korg synthesiser console I’m going to dig out this weekend and try again, might just make that banger of a track I was envisaging before I got it!
Quickly moving on...
Next up are some more things you can do to reset reference points you may have, which could prove useful. I’ll explain reference points after, too.
5. Concretely re-experience
Best example for this is…. So, you are in a job, 12 months after hating your last job, but don’t seem to be as happy now as you were at the start. Why is that? You can’t seem to figure out why. It could just be that you have gotten used to it. Literally thinking back to being in your old job and what you disliked about it, may actually help you appreciate your current job again and bring to the surface some new things you may want to do within your new job also. You could try this with lots of things, like your ex-partner, old flat, old bike etc.
6. Concretely observe
Similar to above, but say the novelty of your new flat has worn off — you loved it when you moved in. Do a walk by your old one that you couldn’t wait to get out of (Google Maps it in lockdown), for whatever reason that was. Again, it may help you appreciate the new flat a little more. This could be done with lots of things and can just help you feel a little happier and content.
7. Avoid social comparisons
Social media apps is a big one here. It can be useful to say ‘STOP’ to yourself when on it, if you find yourself comparing in an unhealthy way as you scroll. You’ll notice it is happening. Doing that regularly may help you do it less. Being conscious of what you let in can also help here, so click the unfollow link if you just don’t get positive energy from something. The wellbeing course actually highly recommends deleting social media apps, at least periodically, more on that in future blogs…
8. Interupt your consumption
Interrupting a good time and coming back to it, can actually prolong the overall feeling of enjoyment. Sounds odd doesn’t it? But, it appears to be true. On a Netflix binge, try stopping, then come back to it a day or so later. The nice feeling of anticipation will bubble in the mean time, you will find you are more engaged in it again when you re-start and enjoy it for longer. In short, if you split up your consumption of things you enjoy doing, it can prolong the enjoyment as after a while of doing it the enjoyment can start to wane, so coming back to it fresh again can help. Remember when your favourite TV shows used to be on at the same time each week (The Simpsons on a Sunday)? You couldn’t wait to watch it and were engrossed when it came on.
9. Increase your variety
This helps to reduce you getting used to something that you enjoy quickly and basically taking it for granted. Love chocolate ice-cream, have vanilla every now and then to make you enjoy the chocolate one more! Again, seems simple, but can be helpful.
They are salient (very noticeable), but often irrelevant standards against which subsequent information is compared. A problem can then be that comparisons come in all the time, even if you don’t realise it. The above 5 things are some tactics to help reduce the impact of these pesky reference points. I think everyone is guilty of comparing themselves to things and then feeling a little unhappier — that person has the life I always wanted, what a beautiful holiday that person is going on and I can’t afford it etc. Of course, sometimes that reference point can be turned into energy or goals to help you change things for the better, but often it can just leave you feeling down for a while. It can be very helpful to change some of these reference points using the tricks above.
After doing half the course, it is becoming clear that the science is that experiences (e.g. a trip, learning something new, hanging out with friends) tend to make people happier for longer than the things you feel are supposed to make you happier. You know the ones and we all know lots of people who have many of these and don’t appear to be as happy as you would expect, either.
I won’t go into the full reasons why that is the case here as it is a bit of a long story, but it will be teased out in future blogs. But, given that it’s harder right now to have lots of new experiences, the above is an attempt to help you get some more happiness from the things you already have.
By intentionally and regularly trying a tactic that works for you, you may be able to feel a little happier and content, despite the current situation. Give it a try and let me know how it goes! You got this!
Any questions or if Diana and I can be of any help, even so we can give you a virtual hug, feel free to comment below or reach out to us at Hello@MYO.Place.
Oh, if you fancy learning something new and creative, virtually, at home or in the M.Y.O studio in Central London, check out the below.
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