Pandemic has made mindfulness and planning holidays difficult, but what else can boost our happiness, according to research?
The current pandemic challenges mindfulness, daydreaming and planning holidays. “Mindfulness is useless in a pandemic,” we read in Catherine Nixey’s article in The Economist. Focusing on “here and now” is difficult these days, because “here and now” is not necessarily the best “now” we have envisioned for ourselves.
According to Catherine Nixey, what is more important than mindfulness is focusing more on daydreaming and planning, which is not easy these days. “The pandemic has reminded us that the joy we take in planning is as valid as the event itself”, she says.
True. Daydreaming, visualizing the future and planning holidays have a positive effect on our levels of happiness. More than you think.
The study published in the Journal of Applied Research on the Quality of Life demonstrates that we are the happiest before the holidays, not during holidays. What is even more striking is that there has almost been no difference shown in the happiness levels of vacationers and non-vacationers after they took holidays. It is the anticipation, daydreaming, imagining the almost-perfect holiday scenarios that boost our happiness, and it is waiting in line to museums or recreation parks during holidays and the dread of returning to work that decreases that.
Jeroen Nawijn, the study lead, has suggested the ways of maximizing this state of mind by fully indulging in planning the holidays, sharing it with friends and family and talking about it. Makes sense, as savouring also boosts our mood.
OK, so we need to plan and dream, but we also need mindfulness. It is not redundant, as Catherine Nixey states in her opinion article, but it is not the only way to increase our well-being.
Next to mindfulness, creating a personal vision and daydreaming, stroking animals/pets, walking in nature, expressing gratitude, physical fitness, playfulness and humour can awaken our Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA). PEA is a positive state of “distinct emotional, psychological, physiological, and neurological characteristics that create ‘a force around one’s thinking, feeling, and behaviours’, and activates a parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is linked to happiness, joy and hope.
Performing a little bit of all activities mentioned above, or as much as it is possible in current circumstances, and thinking of concrete ways of how to do it daily might boost our happiness. One day it can be a walk in a park and daydreaming, the other a short meditation session and watching a good stand-up comedy that will make us laugh.
We might see the positive effects of that only when we ensure the ratio of positive emotional state to negative is 5:1 or 3:1, as various studies suggest, so let’s be a little bit patient and compassionate with ourselves even when we are already doing our best. Also, share your experiences with caring and trusted people around you, as the relationship with them plays a central role in our efforts to feel better.