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The Secret of Happiness

As we all continue on with a 2020 that just keeps offering up surprises many of us are struggling to find joy and happiness. A genuine “How are you?” or “Are you doing okay?” can lead to a tear felt expression of struggle or loss. In an article by Jessica Stillman she explores the surprising research of Yale Professor of psychology Laurie Santos. Dr. Santos teaches the most popular course at Yale University, a course on how to be happy. This course is available for us all online in case you are interested.

We compare the life we are faced with today and suddenly appreciate the life we once may have taken for granted. Things like visiting with friends, traveling, coworkers we may have tolerated but now wish we could visit with more frequently are all common sentiments. We may even say when things go back to normal “I will be so happy to have that life again. Then I will be happy! I’ll celebrate with my friends and truly appreciate travel or even my old job will be great.” But if there is anything I’ve learned from 2020, it’s right when you say, “At least, it can’t get any worse,” 2020 says “Hold my beer.” Waiting for things to get better is not a requirement for happiness, and may disappoint as the “better” we expect may never come. So what can we do today to be happier today?

Santos isn’t the only scientist pointing out that, if you want to be happier, you should focus more on kindness to others than kindness to yourself (though self-acceptance and pampering are certainly nice too). Research out of Oxford confirms that even tiny acts of kindness can have profound effects on our happiness, and other studies show small acts of kindness can ripple out, boosting mental well-being in the wider community.

Kindness isn’t just good for your mental health. It’s been shown to have a big impact on our physical health too. You’ll recover more quickly after a heart attack, for instance, if your boss is supportive and friendly. Loving kindness meditation may help you live longer.

During COVID we are all a little more isolated and some easy ways to connect include: Sending kind texts to your friends and family. Pick a person a day to highlight in your thoughts and efforts. Make or buy someone something small that they would appreciate. We are used to birthday gifts or holiday presents but what about a random something that says “I think of you, you matter, I remember you and know you.”

You may want an organized way to do more in your community. With COVID layoffs, the fire, and a sluggish economy, opportunities abound. Here are a few to search:

City of Ashland website for volunteer opportunities and contacts

The Ashland Emergency Foodbank

OSF is continuing to lead in community efforts:

https://www.osfashland.org/support/osf-wildfire-info

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