Here’s how to make yourself happier, according to a Yale professor

Finding ways to be happy can be hard to come by these days. In what has been an unexpected and turmoil-filled year, self-care has never been more important than during the coronavirus pandemic but actually practicing it is different than saying it.

With the holidays here and more stress (plus seasonal depression), ending 2020 can seem like a breath of fresh air and perhaps it’s an opportunity to find happiness again in your life.

As stress and anxiety levels seem destined to peak again with the upcoming second wave of the virus, it may be time to slow down and find what makes you happy again. Yale Professor Laurie Santos, the host of the Happiness Lab podcast, recently penned a column for Newsweek diving into her methods on happiness and reflecting on the past year.

The professor of psychology is the head of Yale’s most popular class on the “science of happiness,” according to the story, which saw a spike in online enrollment when the COVID-19 pandemic started back in March.

The course, dubbed “The Science of Well-Being”, is being offered for free through Coursera via Yale. Santos wrote about many touching stories she heard about how her class helped others comprehend the COVID-19 pandemic and how to incorporate practices learned and apply them to every day life.

So what can you do? Here are just some of the tips Santos laid out in her story.

Socialize

Finding time for friends and family isn’t the problem; it’s social distancing and remaining responsible during the pandemic. As distribution of the vaccine started earlier his month, we are still a ways away from being able to congregate at bars and enjoy life together as coworkers but we are not entirely hopeless.

Santos advised getting creative when connecting with people.

“Try a socially distanced walk with a neighbor. Or use online tools like Zoom and FaceTime to connect not just with people who live near us, but friends in far-off time zones. If you put in some work and get creative, the possibilities for social connection are endless, even during COVID,” she writes. “I’ve started a monthly virtual spa night with my college roommates, as well as an online morning yoga practice with some professor friends in four different cities. It requires a bit more of a start-up cost than running into a colleague at the water cooler, but if we put in the effort we can reap the rewards of a richer social life.”

Be thankful

Gratitude goes a long way, Santos said. She suggested a gratitude journal where you try to write “three to five things you’re grateful for every day.” If that isn’t your speed, gratitude letters to loved ones and friends can “strengthen your bonds to the people in your life who matter most to your happiness.”

Live in the moment

Forget 2020; focus on 2021 — maybe that starts with meditation.

“Studies show that even five or ten minutes of meditation every day can boost not only your daily concentration but also your mood levels,” Santos said. “A regular meditation practice can also help you realize that your thoughts are just…well, thoughts. The practice of sitting with unhelpful emotions like fear, anger or jealousy—even for a few minutes—can help us start to put them in some perspective, and to notice that they often depart just as suddenly as they arrive in our minds, which can help us avoid letting our negative emotions dictate our actions.”