This is what I hear most often these days when there is talk for the umpteenth time of a pandemic, of health measures and social distancing. To these irritants, which wear out the patience of Quebecers, the optimism of an imminent exit from the health crisis is gradually fading.
At the beginning of the 2021 school year, marked by the presence of the Delta variant, the return to school, to the workplace and to our leisure activities is not going as we had hoped. Sanitary measures are maintained, even amplified and an additional effort is required from Quebecers to contain the fourth wave.
In the face of this ongoing pandemic, it is becoming increasingly difficult to present “one size fits all” wellness advice. Mental health is not a fixed, static or completely predictable concept, and the pandemic once again brings it all into focus. We are tired (exhausted perhaps) and also feel that everything has been said on the subject. Strategies that may have seemed inspiring at the very beginning (taking a walk, resting, doing yoga) may now be boring.
To understand our weariness, we can refer to the phenomenon of habituation. After a certain time, human beings adapt and get used to a situation that was very disturbing for them. Thus, there is not only something bad in the current weariness that inhabits us. It is also a symbol of our adaptation over time to this new state, which no longer leaves us in a constant state of alertness. To the boredom and fatigue that this state generates, we can respond with novelty.
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.