Mere months ago, nobody would have predicted that today, there would be millions of people around the world sheltering in place and working from home amid a global pandemic. But humans are masters of adaptation, so it’s no surprise that people have adjusted their routines in response to the challenges COVID-19 has created in daily life.
While there’s no shortage of articles and op-eds offering advice these days, we wanted to cut through the noise to hear what a leading expert had to say about life in the pandemic. We spoke with psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, whose research shows that it’s critical to make happiness a priority now, more than ever. Here, she explains the why and the how.
What are the benefits of happiness?
Although people offer different definitions of it, we all know happiness when we see and feel it. According to Lyubomirsky, happiness has two components: it is derived from how satisfied you are with your life overall, and it can result from emotion — like when a person or thing makes us feel joyful.
“People who are happier are more likely to get married, they have more friends and they’re physically healthier,” Lyubomirsky explains. Happiness isn’t a luxury, in other words: “Literally, if you induce happiness you will boost people’s immune systems.”
Lyubomirsky’s research shows that happiness also makes us work and function better. Happiness boosts creativity and productivity, and supports our ability to adapt. It also helps us persevere, making difficult situations more manageable. As a result, happiness is more important than ever during challenging times and should be top of mind for managers, team members and employers alike.
“When you’re happier, you’re going to be more motivated to actually address problems,” she says. “You’re going to have more energy, be healthier [and] have better social support.”
So how, then, do we harness happiness at work during tough times?
Stay engaged with work to preserve structure, meaning and “flow”
In fact, work can be key here. It gives structure to our days, brackets our home time, and keeps us focused on something other than the news or personal concerns. Work also provides motivation for the future and keeps us busy in the present.
With millions of people sheltering in place, it’s no longer possible for many to enjoy the social interactions of a typical workday. However, Lyubormirsky says we can and should still find ways to connect socially: “Anything you can do in your daily life that can strengthen relationships is going to make you happier or maintain happiness.”
During times of social distancing, most of those connections will happen virtually, which Lyubomirsky says is “almost as good” as in-person. Also, be mindful of what works best for you, she says, and pay attention to what doesn’t. If you find that you’re drained by being on camera, don’t be afraid to change things up with a phone call. And remember: the goal is to nurture social bonds, which will help us recharge and gain strength.
While the reality of…