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Finding happiness

Finding happiness when you can’t do things that make you happy

Some books speak directly to the soul. One such treasure, a series of books is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third instalment of the series, Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, announces to the students, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

These words stayed with readers for its significance in daily lives. They serve as a reminder that happiness isn’t controlled by things, people, or circumstances. No matter how difficult the road ahead is, happiness can still be found; like courage in the face of failure. But the real question is how? And this question becomes even more perplexed when a pandemic is at your doorstep. How would you go around an outbreak and still manage to find happiness when your life is stuck between the four walls of your home?

Before trying to solve this mystery, you should know something about happiness first. Being happy isn’t about carrying a smile on your face. It is a conscious choice you make about how you want to live, every single day. In the wake of the pandemic, perhaps this choice looks futile. You can’t meet your friends, play sports, or simply go out for a walk—the life you knew has ceased to exist, at least for a while. But this doesn’t mean happiness has become wishful thinking, it never will.

As Dumbledore said, turn on the lights. And this metaphorical light is nothing but your mind. ‘Turn on’ your mind, and with its light look inward to find perspectives. A fresh outlook can bring clarity and optimism, and at their cusp, you can find happiness waiting to get discovered. In this feature, Soulveda shares such perspectives that can help you in your search for happiness, especially in these troubled times.

Focus on the brighter side

Dwelling on what is wrong in your life takes away the focus from what is going right. So, whether it is a nation-wide lockdown, a physical injury, a financial setback, or just a new year resolution going astray, distract yourself from what is missing and focus on what is present. As they say, gratitude can turn little into plenty. And studies prove, expressing gratitude in what you have can change your brain structure, lead to happiness, and ultimately change your life.

Find an alternative

Instead of losing sleep over that vacation you didn’t take or the morning swims you used to take at dawn to de-stress, search for an alternative, which is equally giving. Try out a digital way of being adventurous and competitive—challenge your friend on a video call with a task you’ve both never done before, and time yourselves doing it. It might just give you the rush you have been missing in life. Mindful practices such as yoga and meditation can be a relaxing alternate to your morning de-stressor.

Change your vantage point

Sometimes, situations lie beyond our control—like the pandemic. Stressing over things you can’t control can create anxiety and worry. Focusing on what’s in your control, on the other hand, can help you find calm and joy. A change in the way you look at a situation can completely change the way it affects you. The shopping trip you took every other weekend or the restaurants you loved to explore may be a thing of the past right now. But aren’t you saving money, perhaps for something you can do later? Or experiencing a new way of life that is humble and less cluttered? A small shift in perspective can make you gain deeper insights, deeper understanding, and eventually a deeper sense of happiness.

Take comfort in small things

Don’t turn your pursuit of happiness into a mechanical process. Instead of stressing over the lack of happiness, take comfort in small things—after all, happiness comes in all shapes and sizes.

An unexpected call from an old friend, the first whiff of the morning coffee, or maybe the sight of little children organising a dinner party on their rooftops; as was the case with New York City based photographer, Jeremy Cohen, who captured these simple yet profound moments of the simple folks trying to find happiness during the lockdown. Lockdown or not, you can find joy in small packets as well. Just follow your heart, it knows its way to happiness.

Finding happiness, Find happiness in your everyday life

A change in the way you look at a situation can completely change the way it affects you.

Take care of your physical and mental wellbeing

If you want to be happy, take care of your mind and body. Physically active people are proven to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. Further, exercise increases endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals. It also reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and adrenaline in the body. So, no matter where you are, do some form of exercise. It is the easiest way to feel good, no matter the circumstances.

Focus on the happy news

During the ongoing pandemic, around the world, karaoke sessions are erupting from apartment buildings to uplift the general public’s mood and spirit. From Spain to Hong Kong, countless people are finding strength and happiness in togetherness. The famous YouTube channel Some Good News created by Hollywood actor John Krasinski is another platform that is dedicated to “happy news”. Likewise, the internet is filled with heart-warming stories of people making the best out of the lockdown. Take inspiration from them, and tell the world a story of your own.

Try the ‘helper’s high’

Giving is a powerful way to create a wealth of joy. When American author Mark Twain said, “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up,” he was onto something deeper. Today, it is proved by researchers at the University of Oregon that helping others impacts our brain in positive ways. When we help others, our brain releases oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, hormones that boost our mood and counteract the effect of cortisol (the stress hormone). Conclusion: to find happiness, bring a smile on someone’s face first.

Replace the negative with the positive

When you feed your brain negative thoughts, it responds by creating sadness and stress. Conversely, when you focus on the positive, the brain immediately creates feelings of happiness and relaxation in your body. The easiest way to go about it is to list out all the happy thoughts you can think of. So next time you find yourself gorging on negativity, read the list, and see how the magic unfolds.

Get in touch with yourself

The biggest mistake we do in search of happiness is to become dependent on others for it when we can find it within ourselves. According to a study featured in the book The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, 50 percent of our happiness is gene-based, and only 10 percent is based on our circumstances. Which leaves 40 percent, within our power to change. Spending time in solitude can reduce the intensity of daily life and its stressors. When you embrace solitude, you analyse your thoughts and feelings that may give you the happiness and peace you’ve been searching for all around.

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