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Feeling a bit blue lately? You’re not alone. According to the COVID Response Tracking Study, just 14 percent of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31 percent who said the same thing in 2018.
Now, 50 percent say they often or sometimes felt isolated compared to 23 percent of respondents in 2018.
Despite the downturn and significant upheaval, insecurity and loss of direction, there are still ways to boost your happiness.
Take social-media timeouts
“The reality is that nonstop social-media activity can push us down a rabbit hole of fear, divisiveness, negativity and hopelessness,” said Kathy Caprino, career and executive coach and author of “The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss” (HarperCollins Leadership).
Turning off notifications is key to reducing anxiety levels. Caprino said, “Use social media more cautiously and sparingly. Put your phone in another room when you sleep, and recognize that many of these platforms are designed to keep you hooked and to give away your attention more and more each day. Grab the reins and reclaim your time and your attention.”
Learn to live with stress
Jim Curtis, head of brand for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, said stress can actually coexist with happiness.
“Some stress drives us and motivates us,” he said. “We can be happy despite having stress. For me, stress is the antidote to procrastination,” he said. “It creates an almost painful urgent response that we know we can’t live with for extended periods of time. It tells us we need to get this done, it’s time.”
Andrea Correale — president of Elegant Affairs, a caterer serving parties and events in Manhattan and on Long Island — has a remedy for turbulent times.
“When I’m starting to feel a wave of anxiety, I stop and do something to nurture myself,” said Correale.
She focuses on golfing and “earthing” — walking barefoot on grass to feel grounded — in her Oyster Bay, LI, yard.
Asha Tarry, psychotherapist and author of “Adulting as a Millennial: A Guide to Everything Your Parents Didn’t Teach You” (Jones Media Publishing), agreed that being in touch with nature can be productive.
“Earthing, the term used to ground oneself, specifically by touching one’s bare feet to the soil, sand or grass beneath them, helps people connect to the present time, one moment at a time,” she said.
“Clarity about what we can control and what we cannot helps us to use our energy on areas where we can be most effective,” said Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a Midtown psychologist and author of the upcoming book “Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety” (St. Martin’s Essentials, March 2021).
“This helps to reduce ruminating, and positions us to be successful in using our resources to solve problems rather than just spinning our wheels.”
Break down concerns into what you can and can’t control and identify specific actions you can implement. For instance, if you started a new job and want to make a good impression, outline the situation.
“It’s obviously out of your control that you’re new at the company, but it is within your control to respond to your anxiety proactively by choosing the one person you’ve talked to the most since onboarding,” said Carmichael. “Ask that person to be your ally by asking a friendly question or making a supportive comment at your debut presentation.”
Whether you call the city’s COVID-19 emotional-support hotline NY Project Hope, reach out to a therapist or tap into resources provided by your employee-assistance program, there’s strength in getting support.
“You can relieve a lot of stress by simply having a conversation with someone outside of your situation,” said Curtis. “They can help you talk through and find the source of anxiety, and develop a plan on what you should focus on in the moment to start feeling better.”
Also, strength may be summoned among colleagues. Chelsea resident Whitney Glandon, director of resident programs at retirement community Brookdale Battery Park City, works closely with her colleagues.
“We’re constantly boosting each other,” said Glandon. “It’s really about being present with each other. As the staff, we have to take care of each other, too, because we’re taking care of the seniors. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.”
According to Dr. Noah Kass, psychotherapist and clinical director at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy in Soho, we should be gentler with ourselves.
“One of the keys to experiencing happiness in traumatic times is to create flexible and balanced thinking habits,” he said. “We can do this by minimizing the demands we place on ourselves — the musts, should, and needs that often dominate our internal dialogue can be replaced by kinder and more accurate self-talk.”
“It’s easy to forget how important socialization is when we’re physically apart with no water cooler to gather around. Therefore, make it a priority to give and receive kindness and empathy to co-workers,” said Kass. “The ability to offer and receive support from trusted colleagues is not only important, but necessary for a happy work environment.”
When you see a colleague struggling, ask, “What can I do to help?” This simple, open-ended question gives them permission to express themselves. And when they respond, “don’t forget to listen to their answer,” said Kass. “When we feel connected to others, we feel more invested in the joint work we are doing. The end result is decreased burnout and improved productivity.”
Above all, your happiness is not contingent on everything in life working out — the perfect job, the bigger paycheck.
“Ultimately, happiness is about our internal experience,” said Kass. “It is so important to give yourself permission to be happy right here and right now. Now is your moment.”