Finding Happiness in Challenging Times

What is Happiness? 

While it may seem the answer is intuitive, there are various definitions for this term and researchers in positive psychology have identified a few central components and themes:

  • Having positive emotions about your past, present, future
  • Having a positive connection to the people in your life and the activities you engage in
  • Having feelings of being satisfied with your life and your choices
  • Having a sense of purpose and meaning in one’s life

Given the current state of the pandemic, many people that I work with individually in therapy continue to express a variety of conflicting thoughts and feelings about their current experiences and their ideas about the future.  Some are choosing to return to school, getting ready for graduation, preparing for college, and seeing family members for the first time in-person with increasing amount of individuals having access to the vaccine. Simultaneously, they continue to reflect on their past and have to grieve the loss of family members, friends, and missed opportunities that this past year has taken away. 

What Can We Do?

While it may seem incredibly difficult to imagine feelings of happiness in such difficult and depressing times, research on this topic can bring us some hope.  Meaning, not everything that we think and feel has to be determined by our circumstances.  Are their obstacles and barriers in life that make it difficult to be experience positive emotions? Absolutely. However, it is possible to obtain lasting happiness if you know what to look for and what habits to cultivate over time. 

As highlighted within the Happiness Toolbox: 56 Practices to Find Happiness, Purpose & Productivity in Love, Work and Life (2018) by Dr. Jonah Paquette, happiness research has found that feelings of positive wellbeing are a combination of our genetic makeup, our environmental circumstances, and our own behaviors. Furthermore, it is believed that our own thoughts, feelings, and actions have the potential to make up 40% or more of an impact on our experienced levels of happiness. Below are just some of these key practices we can begin fostering:

  • Mindfulness 
  • Gratitude
  • Self-Compassion
  • Interpersonal Connection
  • Forgiveness
  • Harnessing our Strengths
  • Caring for our Bodies and Health

Luckily, these above daily practices and actions can fall within our control and have been strongly linked with positive wellbeing and happiness. Even though they may seem self-explanatory, they are in fact greatly beneficial and have the ability to improve one’s overall health and to provide a barrier against future psychological obstacles during these continued challenging times. 

Written by: Dr. Ashley Hallheimer, PsyD.