The secret to finding happiness in lockdown, according to a wellbeing professor

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Professor Laurie Santos – the woman behind The Science of Wellbeing – has revealed her advice for getting through the seemingly neverending coronavirus lockdown.

Updated on 11 November: It’s almost impossible to believe, but we’ve back in lockdown. Again.

Unlike the first one, which kicked off on 23 March, we have been able to see our friends and family this time around (so long as we choose just one of ‘em and meet them outside for an ill-advised walk in the rain). However, we have once again been cut off from the pubs, our favourite restaurants, and the gym. We are back to queueing outside supermarkets alone and two metres apart, solely to ensure we can get essentials (indeed, some supermarkets have cordoned off whatever they deem to be ‘non-essentials’, which disappointed this writer’s cousin when she popped into her local Tesco for a new jumper). Many of us are back to working from home again, or dealing with furlough or redundancy, or faced with the task of doing our jobs and putting ourselves on the front line in the process.

And, on top of all this, we’ve been watching the Covid-19 death toll grow steadily higher by the day. 

It’s understandable, then, that many of us are finding this period of coronavirus-induced uncertainty to be incredibly tough: our stress levels are up, our moods are low, and we’re feeling increasingly listless.

Professor Laurie Santos – whose overwhelmingly popular online course, The Science of Wellbeing, has been taken by over 2 million students to date – knows this all too well. However, in an interview with the World Economic Forum’s podcast, she has revealed that there are certain things we can be doing to ensure we stay happy and motivated during lockdown.

As reported on 30 April: Somewhat surprisingly – especially for those of us suffering from Zoom fatigue – Santos has said that staying connected with our loved ones is key.

“Research suggests that happy people tend to be relatively social,” she explains. “This is a hard thing to do in the time of Covid-19 because social distancing often means we can’t physically hang out with the people we care about.”

Santos continues: “The research suggests that the act of hanging out with folks in real time, in other words, things like Zoom or FaceTime can be a really powerful way to connect with people.

“You see their facial expressions, hear the emotion in their voice, you’re really able to connect with them.”

A Zoom call
Many have said that they find using Zoom to be emotionally draining, but happiness experts say it could be key to keeping a positive mood.

On a similar note, Santos also suggests that we focus less on ourselves, and far more on others. Or, to put it more bluntly, make an effort to be kinder to the people around us.

“We have this idea of ‘self care’, and treating yourself,” she says. “But the research suggests if you make people do nice things for others, like donate money, that tends to boost their wellbeing.

“Doing random acts of kindness, particularly in this time when we’re all really struggling, can be incredibly powerful. It has a positive effect on society as well.”

So how can you help others during the coronavirus pandemic?

Reach out to neighbours and vulnerable people in your community. Support small businesses. Stay indoors and follow social distancing guidelines, always. And, if you can afford to make a donation of your own, then please consider one of the following causes:

Age UK

“Demand for our vital services is increasing rapidly,” reads a statement from Age UK, which provides companionship and support to vulnerable and lonely elderly people.

“Please help us be there for older people who desperately need us during this crisis.”

The Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust is working to stop UK hunger and poverty, and their network of foodbanks provides emergency food and support to people in crisis.

Battersea Dogs Home

It costs around £50,000 every day to care for the animals across Battersea’s three centres. Now more than ever, they need your support to care for the thousands of animals who arrive at their gates every year.

Mind

Self-isolation is tough, but it’s even tougher for those struggling with their mental health. By donating to Mind, you’ll be able to help them help those who need it most.

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You can find out more about Professor Laurie Santos’ interview for the World Economic Forum’s podcast here.

Images: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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