Perseverance in difficult times

The pandemic restricts personal freedom and can affect well-being. Some even sink into fear or loneliness. But the happiness hormones in the brain can be activated - according to researchers, there are various ways to do this

No traffic jams on the autobahn, empty subways and the chirping of birds instead of traffic noise: moments of happiness could be discovered in the first lockdown - at the beginning of the pandemic, there was often talk of decelerating. In the meantime, many women, men and children have their nerves on edge - despite the political slogans to persevere. How do you manage the last miles of the Corona marathon? And do happiness researchers have an answer to that?

Finland in first place in the world happiness report

International Happiness Day, celebrated on March 20, was introduced by the United Nations (UN) in 2013. According to the UN, key aspects that lead to happiness and well-being are ending poverty, reducing inequality and protecting our planet.

In the World Happiness Report, which a UN research network publishes every year, Finland came first in early 2020, ahead of Denmark and Switzerland. Germany finished seventeenth. South Sudan and Afghanistan ranked at the bottom, where there are completely different problems than daycare centers and cinemas that are closed due to corona.

Mental stress grows in lockdown

Only the World Happiness Report 2021 will show how the pandemic affects life satisfaction and whether there are differences between the nations. Studies from Germany indicate that psychological pressure increases in the second lockdown, especially among young people.

The happiness level has dropped, says Hilke Brockmann, sociology professor at Jacobs University Bremen. The background is concerns about health, fear of unemployment or even existential fears. Even if it does not affect everyone: "A permanent state of fear is harmful," says the happiness researcher.

Positive thinking enriches everyday life

From a neurobiological point of view, we feel happy when an invigorating cocktail of the body's own chemicals flows through the brain. Oxytocin, for example, is released during hugs and sex, and in women during childbirth and breastfeeding. The Corona distance rules ensure that most people - especially those who live alone - produce less of this "cuddle hormone".

From Brockmann's point of view, it is important to focus on the positive now. "You can pull yourself up to the fact that the vaccination is working and tell yourself that hopefully the restrictions will be over in the summer." She is convinced that the prospect of success allows one to be more productive with the time until then.

"Mindfulness practices, yoga, but also outdoor sports are booming." Conscious cooking and eating could also lighten the mood. Dog owner Brockmann also sees a pet as happy.

Capture the happy moments

“Turning to other people creates positive feelings. We often feel happy when we give something to others, give something or share something, ”says Michael Kunze. The professor of social medicine at the University of Vienna has analyzed studies on the subject in his latest book “Der Glückskompass” and developed strategies from them.

“We have more happy moments than unhappy moments. We just have to know how to hold it, ”he says. When walking, one should take paths that are filled with positive memories. Daydreaming is also important: “How will that be when we are allowed to go to the restaurant again? What will I order myself? "

Activate happiness hormones with exercise

According to the scientist, lots of movement and lots of light are two essential approaches to experiencing happiness. “Long-distance runners report feelings of happiness of a different kind after about 25 km, the flow. The background is endocannabinoids in the brain, opiate-like substances, ”says Kunze. We also know the phenomenon when a child is completely lost in a game or when one forgets time and space while reading an exciting book.

For Maike van den Boom, it is now crucial to find access to one's own energy resources. The German, who lives in Stockholm, holds lectures and seminars in companies that want their employees to be happier and better develop their potential. The Scandinavians are more relaxed and are less afraid of changes and crises, observes van den Boom. That will help them in the pandemic.

Happiness hormones can be activated with exercises. Van den Boom suggests “in bed early in the morning to think about five things that go well, that we are grateful for, that we will crack today”. According to her, smiling for a minute or stretching your arms towards the ceiling in a victory pose helps to train positive areas in the brain. The consultant and author is convinced that sharing positive thoughts in the form of a compliment makes you twice as happy. "I would recommend online teams, parents, but also every school to start the day like this."