This Saturday, on March 20th, we are celebrating the ‘International Day of Happiness’. I have to be honest, it feels strange to write about happiness amongst so much confinement and grief that COVID-19 has brought into all of our lives.
I believe that is important to acknowledge those who suffered, those who lost someone, and those who are still suffering. I just want to tell you that you are not alone. I want to tell you that there is a hope.
Hope is the last to die!
This year has been one of the hardest in recent memory, but perhaps we should see this day as an opportunity to stop and reflect. Grab hope with two hands and hope for a better, happier and healthier future. For those of us who were fortunate and privileged enough to have our family and friends safe, but also for those of us who may not have been; I’m sure there were some happy moments that we could all acknowledge, or at the very least, some moments of appreciation or gratitude.
Have you noticed that flowers are more colourful now than before Covid? That walks with friends or with just your own thoughts have become more precious? That even the smallest things, that we would have probably ignored before, can bring a smile to our face? Have you noticed that even though we, as individuals, have just gone through one of the most unpredictable times yet; we are still able to find ways to enjoy ourselves?
Have you noticed how resilient you are?
As a community, we are all hopeful that life will return to the ‘normality’. You know, when we will be able to go to restaurants again, see people ‘in-person’ without restrictions, travel to our dream distant locations etc… And although I am hopeful too that we will get back to a ‘happier’ and more freeing times, I also know that we will enter the new normality with a new perspective, a more resilient and mindful one.
As a postgraduate student at School of Health in Social Sciences (HISS), I understand the struggle of keeping up with your reading for Uni or having the motivation to continue with your PhD work. Most importantly, I understand the isolation and loneliness that the entire situation brings to the table. There is definitely HOPE! The world is tackling this pandemic, perhaps slowly, but steadily. We, as a postgraduate community, will get through this in one piece. As someone who understands the in-and-out and is specializing in depression and anxiety, I might have a couple tips that would help during those times to help us find an inner piece of happiness.
Tip 1: Have a semi-permanent routine
A semi-permanent routine is perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time or cannot keep a routine. It is more or less like a to-do list, but this list has only one item that you must do every day (or on specific days) and has no set time. Is there anything that lifts your spirits or makes you feel happy that you could do most of your days? For example, in my semi-permanent routine I go for a 30min-1hour walk every day. It can be at any time and it always makes me feel better. You could choose to do a physical (e.g. exercises routine) or a mental activity (e.g. meditation). It can be an active (e.g. gardening) or a relaxing activity (e.g. taking a long bath). It’s all about what makes you feel better and making yourself accountable to do it in a semi-permanent way.
Tip 2: Have a uni to-do list
We are all still students and we still need to get work done. Create a list of work stuff you know you can fit in that day [3-4 items]. Try to be specific and set small, tangible goals in your daily to-do list. Don’t include items like ‘Introduction section’. Long pieces of work require days to be well thought out and it will only make you feel worse if at the end of your day you are not able to scratch out any items from your list. Perhaps put instead: ‘Plan for introduction’ or ‘write first 2 paragraphs’ so, when you complete those tasks, you have a feeling of achievement. In turn, this will hopefully improve your mood.
Yes, we have all probably already heard the benefits of doing exercise, investing in self-care, meditating, having a working or a night-time routine. The truth is that there is no secret ‘happiness’ recipe. You don’t always need complicated things to make you feel better. You just need to hear yourself. Keep on asking yourself. What makes you feel happy? How could you include this in a ‘semi-permanent’ way in your life? Try it out! Last but not least, try to chat with other people. This can be your friends or family. Have a chat about anything. Reach out, you might just help somebody else.
There are many services out there that might help you feel a bit better:
- University Health and Wellbeing Services
- Edinburgh NightLine
- Project Soothe images bank
- Match-Up Catch-Up EUSA initiative
We will get through this pandemic. We will be back to happier times!
This blog should have been about happiness. But I believe that what we need is Hope!