It’s Possible to Find Happiness in Times of Social Isolation

It’s Possible to Find Happiness in Times of Social Isolation

via Psychology Today by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and its potentially terrifying consequences for your life and the lives of others close to you, it may seem impossible to find a path toward happiness, if only for a few moments at a time.

Although the news continues to focus on the grim progression of the virus, there are occasional bright spots in the reporting, such as residents of several Italian cities coming out on their balconies to sing or Americans cheering healthcare workers from their windows and front porches. You may be on FaceTime or Zoom with friends and family, helping to maintain some type of interaction between now and the day you can be physically back together. Are these enough to keep your spirits up during these difficult times?

Insight into the role of social interaction and happiness comes from a large-scale 2019 study of happiness and social behavior by Ramon Llull University’s (Spain) Jordi Quoidbach along with Maxime Taquet of Boston Children’s Hospital (2019) and others. Although conducted before the 2020 pandemic, with the widespread adoption of social distancing around the world, its findings contain some suggestions for how your relationships with others can foster positive emotions and reduce negative emotions.

Using data on everyday happiness and social interactions from over 30,000 participants studied for over a month, the international team begin their investigation by questioning the findings of “dozens of studies employing a wide range of methods [that] point to the general conclusion that being with other people makes us happy” (p. 1111).

Indeed, the idea that social interaction is necessary in order to remain happy suggests that quarantining, isolation, and social distancing would condemn millions of people around the world to weeks, if not months, of plummeting happiness levels. However, Quoidbach et al. note that the relationship is not so clear-cut. When you’re happy, you may be more likely to seek out the company of others, flipping the happiness-interaction equation on its head. Furthermore, as the authors note, “decades of research on coping and attachment have demonstrated that people are particularly likely to seek contact with others in times of distress rather than happiness” as “mood-repair strategies” (p. 112).

These findings can be reconciled, the authors suggest, by the “hedonic flexibility principle,” which states that when you’re unhappy, you try to feel better by seeking people out, but when you’re happy, you actually are willing to sacrifice social contact to enable you to spend time on your own in order to pursue long-term goals. In other words, when you’re in a good mood, you can give up short-term goals (having fun) for the benefit of a long-term goal that will bring self-improvement such as reading, exercising, or excelling at a hobby.

Based on the hedonic flexibility principle, although it might make you happy to be with the people you care about now, if you can sustain a positive mood, you’ll be more likely to do what’s needed to help yourself and others remain virus-free. Indeed, in a related article, University of Buffalo’s Shira Gabriel and colleagues (2020) discuss the role of “collective effervescence” in “creating the sacred from the profane.” According to this concept, if you see your individual efforts as contributing to a better social outcome, you’ll be able to take inspiration from the small sacrifices you make in your own daily life…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE