How to Be Happy: 5 Ways to Find Hope in Times of Distress
The current reality of the global pandemic is taking a toll on the human spirit. We are having a harder time keeping our head above water, and it’s showing. Painful posts about loved ones and desperate pleas from people asking for prayers flood our Instagram feed. Where do we go from here?
As I sit and type this, with the conscious mindset that I should be living and breathing joy as a happiness coach and the founder of Getting to Happy, I am acutely aware of the word happiness.
Yet this week, I felt myself sinking, falling deep into a sea of emotions, and almost drowning in it. I know I can kick a little harder and reach the surface, but it feels impossible. The struggle of being far from my family in India, while simultaneously living in the wonderfulness of this red dot makes me feel guilty. How can I be happy here while my family there could potentially be exposed to danger?
A little while ago, I had received approval to send my parents from India to Singapore. In an instant following that, however, the Covid-19 containment measures here have suddenly been changed, and flights from India can no longer land in Singapore. There was nothing I could do about it, which left me feeling helpless.
I coach and mentor a lot of young people and during this week of praying and worrying, I met a young girl. A brave, exceptionally smart girl who told me happiness would just mean feeling love from her parents. Her words took my breath away and brought me back to a rational state in an instant.
Sure, I teach happiness, but that doesn’t mean I am happy 24/7. It means I have to look deeper in myself to find the energy to break through the surface during those hard moments of total submersion. And this young, fabulous lady did that for me this week.
If you are going through something similar, there are things you can do to help lift yourself out of your state of distress. Here are five ways to “keep above water”.
1/5 Let some things go
Often, many things that we are stressed about are out of our control. To find peace in such situations, we need to acknowledge this fact. When I learned that I could no longer arrange for my parents to come to Singapore, I was devastated. But there was no way to change the situation.
It’s easy to allow anxiety to engulf me, but it won’t help anything, myself or my parents, for that matter, if I let it happen. With the million thoughts running through our mind, we need to release the worries we have no control over and move on from them. Otherwise, you will not be able to function—there are many other things and people in our life that still require our presence and attention.
2/5 Try meditation
My number one coping mechanism for stress and worry is meditation. Science shows that practising it for a few minutes a day, consistently over several weeks, actually changes the brain structure. With consistent meditation, we can reduce anxiety and stress, tackle problems better, build resilience and even improve sleep.
A huge misconception about meditation is that it only works for people who already can meditate well. Another one is that it takes ages for one to learn to meditate properly. That is not true—it simply takes a commitment to doing it. You might find meditating difficult right at the start, but even then, you’ll start appreciating its benefits as long as you put your heart into practising it.
Try apps like Calm or Headspace, or just search through meditation music on Spotify, plug in your headphones and get started.
3/5 Get a workout
When we feel pent up with anxiety and emotions, one easy thing you can do to feel better quickly is to get active. Commit to a regular exercise routine, which not only calms the mind but also increases your mental and physical well-being. Get off the worry couch, do some jumping jacks, go out for a walk, or simply stretch it out.
This week, I found that just 10 minutes of skipping with a jump rope on my balcony did wonders for my mood and body after a long day of work, being seated at my desk throughout.
(Related: How to Make Resolutions That You Can Actually Keep)
4/5 Start a gratitude journal
I am a firm believer in the idea that no matter how grey a situation is, there must be things we can give thanks for. When you feel low, write down what you are grateful for. It pivots your mind and helps you see beyond your troubles.
As I put my daughter Lara to bed (on the day I learned that my parents can’t fly into Singapore), she looked at me and said she was grateful that she had her mama near her, even though I couldn’t have mine. It melted the ball of stress deep inside of me, and I gave thanks that at least my parents are healthy right now. Share your gratitude with a friend, partner or child, and see the ripple effect.
5/5 Reach out to someone
Sometimes, during a storm, we feel like we are the only person without an umbrella. But that simply isn’t the case. Everyone is fighting some battle of their own—it’s just that they do not always show it. Reach out. Call a friend. Go for lunch. Sing with your kids. Watch something funny on TV. We need human connections, small moments where we can express ourselves, feel love, receive hugs, laugh and just get a mood boost.
Last night, my husband and I felt exhausted, so we lay in bed, switched on Netflix and watched an episode of Friends. It was simple and light-hearted—we laughed and felt good. Today, in the car, my kids were making up songs and laughing hysterically at each other, and I caught myself smiling at them. We need others around us and we need to be conscious in those moments being around others.
I told my kids that we need to be together, celebrate life and appreciate each other. We have bowling and pizza planned for this weekend, and planning activities such as these is keeping me going. These little things may be ordinary but they are what’s filling my happy cup right now and keeping my head above water.
(Related: Re:Qi Retreat: How This Wellness Retreat in Singapore Can Help You Achieve Mindfulness)
Shireena Shroff Manchharam is a certified life and happiness coach with her own practice, Sheens Image Consulting. Her passion is in helping individuals reach their highest potential and she is always on a mission to bring happiness to people’s lives. Her husband and two kids—Lara and Arian—and her pet dog, Bowen, are her constant source of love and happiness.
This is the fourth in a series by Shireena Shroff Manchharam on mindfulness and gratitude.