This post is also available in: French
A sigh is what I hear most often when the pandemic and social distancing public health measures come up for the umpteenth time. And now, new measures like the infamous curfew are being added to the sources of irritation that have been wearing down the patience of Quebecers for almost a year now.
While the curfew restricts our movements and trips south serve to widen well-established disparities among Quebecers, it becomes increasingly difficult to offer one-size-fits-all advice for well-being. Differences in opinion and perspective are now added to the social inequalities that create a sharp contrast in our individual realities that has long been identified.
Mental health is not fixed, static, or entirely predictable, something the pandemic has shone a light on once again. We are tired (even exhausted) and feel like everything that can be said has been said. Learning to bake bread has lost the appeal it had in the spring, and strategies that may have seemed inspired at the beginning (taking a walk, resting, doing yoga) may now bore us.
The pandemic is dragging on and may be having a different effect on us, now that it looks more like a marathon than a sprint.
The phenomenon of habituation may explain our weariness. Over time, people adapt and get used to things, even in situations that are highly disruptive. So, the weariness we are experiencing is not all bad. It is in part a symbol of our ability to adapt over time to these new circumstances, which is increasingly leaving us in a constant state of alert. We can respond to the boredom and fatigue generated by these circumstances by trying something new.
Happiness, novelty and wonder
One of the things that makes a big contribution to people’s happiness is the broad category of novelty, including its close relatives, excitement and spontaneity. While the situation we are facing is new in so many ways, it offers little excitement or spontaneity. Can we find a way to inject a little magic into our days? Let’s use our creativity, which has definitely been honed in recent days. Let’s draw inspiration from the travelling we miss and try to distill a bit of its essence in our confined daily lives.
Wonder may not be easy to reach for right now, but it has the potential to be a major ally. It is practised daily in the form of gratitude, but the current moment is not the only time that can bring us well-being. As important as it is to focus on our current reality and sensations, it is entirely legitimate to revisit happy memories and to dream of what we will do once we are free and the lockdown is over. Are there activities we can engage in right now to plan for these longer-term projects (planning a trip, learning a new language to practise it abroad, etc.)?
Novelty and wonder need to be cultivated, and they are currently in short supply. Let’s come up with ways to give ourselves a little fortified boost to combat the winter doldrums. Or let’s draw inspiration from the Scandinavians, who practise hygge, the art of staying home and focusing on the comfort and gentle tranquility this brings us.