What better time than the UN’s International Day of Happiness to remind one another of how important it is we stick together during this pandemic?
As countries around the world go on lockdown, the internet is finally coming into its own as a global lifeline. Across borders and time zones, we’re checking in with one another and having conversations about how best to weather COVID-19. Whether we’re swapping tips on how to stay sane or stories about the great transatlantic toilet paper shortage, we’re talking.
And we need to keep talking, for all our sakes.
Lest we forget, not everyone has people, not everyone has a community — be it online or offline — to fall back on but the most privileged among us thankfully have the internet. Being mindful of what message we put out so as no to spread fear or panic is essential but sharing our respective realities is also important.
Sudden isolation and social distancing are causing untold distress to many and there’s no need for this. If we all commit to being present for others, we can ease the discomfort of measures unfamiliar to most.
If we put our heads and hearts together, we can save innumerable lives not just by staying home but by offering a virtual hand to hold to anyone who needs it.
Now’s not a good time to be tangling with mental health issues, professional precariousness, or poverty. Many of us have just seen our livelihood vanish and it’s taking every ounce of stubbornness we have to keep going.
So how about spreading a little happiness around through pixels and data packets?
We often think of happiness as a constant when it’s in fact made up of innumerable moments of grace with lulls in between. Apart from dogs, no one is ever happy all the time.
Because we lead busy, harried lives, we have great difficulty inhabiting the moment and tend to teleport into a future that hasn’t arrived yet. We pretend we can plan it out in details, at least we used to before COVID-19 broke out and messed everything up.
And yet, finding uncommon solutions to common problems is how humans have survived so far, often against all odds, so why would now be any different? Plus when we come together for the common good, the odds are much, much, much better for everyone.
Regularly taking stock of the good stuff can help us refocus our mind on something other than constant disquiet. No matter how dire the situation may be, we’re alive now, our hearts are beating, and we’re connected around the world.
Hang on to this and let it carry you because it will.
Feeling overwhelmed by some unknown thing we can’t control is a normal and healthy reaction. Fear is a self-protection mechanism but please understand it won’t keep us safe, quite the opposite. At global level, fear can turn into mass hysteria in no time, which is why we urgently need to contain it.
And this is something we can all do. We control what content we create and share; we control our tone.
Now that it’s taken a pandemic to remind us of our shared vulnerability as a species, we’re slowly realizing that happiness does not wait.
That knowledge is no longer the preserve of those who have had to get comfortable with death, as is the case with stage 4 cancer patients or depressives for example. As an aside, that’s my personal context: One of my parents is the cancer patient, I’m the chronic depressive, and collapsing isn’t an option for either of us.
Happiness is a snapshot, a moment in time, so why wouldn’t it still happen despite isolation and social distancing?
Sure, both are counterintuitive to many of us but being home doesn’t mean we have to stop living. As a species, we’re adaptable to a fault so we will eventually ease into the discomfort we’re currently experiencing and find our feet. And once we do, we’ll discover new ways to be and do human.
No doubt there’ll be hurdles and setbacks along the way but despair won’t stand a chance if we show up for one another.
This is how we save one another’s lives, this is how we pull through, and this is how we protect everyone.
Find out more about the 10 Steps to Global Happiness Challenge 2020 dedicated to uniting humanity and winning the fight against COVID-19.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.