There is a lot of hype around self-care. But you said, “We are really obsessed with treating ourselves and taking care of ourselves at the expense of being oriented enough towards others to take care of others.”
Taking care of yourself is great, if you do it right. I am everything to improve your happiness. This is what the whole class is talking about. The problem is to what extent.
We assume that self-care resembles a nice bubble bath – or even hedonistic activities, selfish activities. But the data suggests that the right way to treat ourselves would be to do nice things for other people. We actually get more from being more open, more social, and more oriented towards others than spending money on ourselves. It is a greater increase in your happiness.
How can we do this during Covid?
Use the tools we have to truly connect. A short message to a friend you haven’t seen or a family member you’re worried about, such as “I think of you. I wish I could be together. I’m thinking about this funny memory.” Sharing happy moments, expressing gratitude and using the tools we have to do nice things for others.
I am a huge fan of surprise gifts. Everyone knows they’re going to get gifts for their birthday, but people aren’t expecting a random little gift and thank you letter out of thin air. It’s easy to underestimate how powerful it can be for our relationships and how good it is to achieve.
You are helping others, but the thing we forget is that it is also a way to increase our well-being.
What does research say about how happiness is affected during Covid?
The message I have seen from current research is that Covid is not great for wellness; symptoms of depression and anxiety tend to increase. And those are systematically worse in the most vulnerable populations. So if you look at, let’s say, African Americans right now, the effects of that stuff are worse. If you look at low-income people or people who don’t have childcare help – all people who would normally be affected by well-being – it’s worse in the context of Covid.
So how can we achieve happiness in chaos?
Try not to run away from those negative emotions. As parents, when children express uncertainty, your instinct is to simply deny it or pretend it isn’t there, to “power through it.”
But the uncertainty, the fear, the frustration, the anger, the jealousy – all those negative emotions – aren’t going away. You have to give them space. One technique is to use meditation, where you really try to recognize and accept those emotions. In particular, RAIN: recognize, accept, investigate and nurture.