By Mia Sherin, August 21, 2020
Ever since I was little, my mom would always call me her “sunshine” because she said I radiated sunshine and happiness. Although getting older meant mood swings, bratty teenage years, and disappointing my parents with various shenanigans, I always strived to emulate sunshine, to radiate positivity, and to be happy. But with coronavirus came probably the lowest point of my 20 years of life: a year of college feeling wasted at home, a breakup, and the struggles that come with isolation. So I’m here to share with you how I stayed happy through the hardships.
Of course, I would like to emphasize that I am not a professional or expert in any sense, and I personally do not have any serious underlying mental health issues. So these tips are undoubtedly not enough if you are struggling with mental health, but rather simply could be helpful if you feel weighed down by outside circumstances like...let’s say...a pandemic. Learning to be happy is very personal and unique to everyone, and this is just what worked for me!
The first step I took, and one of the most impactful, was just acknowledging how I was feeling. I regained a lot of power once I was able to admit that yes, this sucks a lot, and yes, this is likely the lowest point of my life. Because when I was able to assess those thoughts, I could see that it is reasonable that I would feel so discouraged, given that my life has been filled with privilege and relatively smooth sailing, so a global health crisis would easily rock the boat. It is normal to feel irritable and unhappy and not like yourself during this time, and acknowledging that was a crucial step forward for me.
Michelle Obama, a self-care icon, brought me the second piece of advice that has significantly changed my quarantine experience: “Plan your joy,” she says. We are so accustomed to creating a to-do list of things we see as chores, but we are not trained to schedule our happiness. I decided that in order to get through the days, I needed to give myself things to look forward to. I learned how to make my favorite Starbucks drink, which made waking up in the morning infinitely more exciting, ordered my favorite Thai food for lunch if I knew it would be a tough day, and made socially-distant plans with friends in advance, rather than last minute, so I could be looking forward to it.
I have seen a lot over social media about the importance of creating a routine while in quarantine, which I completely agree with. Regulating my sleep schedule, having a time set aside to watch TV with my parents every night, reading a book before bed, all of the elements of my routine have brought me peace and have allowed me to create a day that I enjoy. But I also have found that breaking routine is just as important. For me, that means doing things that seem silly and goofy but feel amazing: having morning dance parties alone in my room, decorating a cake that looks like it was made by a kindergartener, going on a run in the rain because it makes me feel like the main character, and anything else you could imagine. Sometimes it feels small or stupid, but if quarantine has taught me anything, it’s to focus just on what makes me happy, and try not to worry about the rest. I hope that through this article, you have learned to do the same.
Coronavirus sucks (the understatement of the century). It’s a depressing and difficult time that feels like it will never end. While I have nothing to say to that (except that yeah, it does suck), I do believe that we can still take steps to stay happy. Order that Thai food for lunch, have a morning dance party, and if you think something might make you happy, give it a try. Staying safe and socially conscious is incredibly important, and I strongly encourage everyone to follow CDC guidelines closely. But while taking care of others during this time, don’t forget that you deserve to be happy.