“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama
- Satisfying a basic need for human relatedness by increasing sense of cooperation, interdependence and community.
- Reducing preoccupation with our own needs/suffering and increasing awareness of our good fortune.
- Increasing sense of purpose, confidence, optimism, and control.
- Inspiring appreciation, gratitude and reciprocity in others.
Unfortunately, many of the ways we might normally achieve this “happiness boost” (e.g. volunteering at a local soup kitchen or your child’s school) may no longer be options in the context of coronavirus.
So, how can we capitalize on the benefits of compassion during quarantine?
- Explore novel ways of volunteering, such as donating to your food bank, picking up prescriptions for your more vulnerable neighbors, or serving as a remote crisis counselor.
- Connect and play virtually. Make time to video chat with a friend, or host a virtual game night.
- Practice synchrony. Research suggests that moving or singing together releases endorphins and increases social bonding. Try an online dance party, yoga class, choir group, jam session or virtual karaoke!
- Intentionally cultivate compassion and gratitude. Try a loving-kindness meditation to elicit feelings of compassion towards others, or a gratitude exercise to increase awareness of what is going well in your life.
- Participate in a nightly standing ovation for healthcare workers and others on the front lines! At coordinated times, entire cities and even nations are stepping out onto their porches or balconies to clap, whistle, and otherwise make noise in honor of all the doctors, nurses, emergency responders, and others who are putting themselves at risk to serve others. (I just participated in San Francisco and it felt great!)
- Notice kindness in others. Research shows that you don’t even need to be on the performing or the receiving end of an altruistic act in order to reap the emotional benefits! Simply noticing altruistic acts and the prosocial behaviors of others can increase happiness. To get a taste of how mood-lifting this can be, try watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS_yRy5EYQk
Of course, one of the most altruistic things you can do at the moment is to limit your in-person contact with others in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable members of society. For some of us, this dramatic reduction in in-person social support can feel destabilizing. If this is true for you, know that you are not alone! Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly recently shared some tips for coping with isolation that he developed while living in space for a year. These included following a schedule, making time for enjoyable activities, going outside, keeping a journal, and taking time to connect. San Francisco photojournalist Brooke Anderson took a similar approach when she wrote the following 6 questions to ask herself each morning to structure her day:
Created by Brooke Anderson
These questions have been helpful for me and could be helpful for you, too. Remember that doing your part may simply mean taking care of yourself — and that’s OK!