Not feeling like yourself these days? If so, you're not alone.

According to a recent survey, one in five Canadians report feeling anxious, lonely or depressed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Levels of stress have mounted since the pandemic started and many people have reported increased feelings of sadness and isolation.

At the same time, the pandemic has also caused people to step back and look at their lives in a way they hadn't before. Suddenly, many of us had plenty of time and space to reevaluate various aspects of our lives, including:

  • daily routines and commutes,
  • homes,
  • careers and
  • emotional well-being.

Our desire to be happy and make time for our mental health has never been more in the spotlight.

But how can we thrive in uncertain times? To start, it helps to:

  • stay connected to the people we love,
  • be kind to each other, and
  • take concrete steps every day to boost feelings of happiness.

To get your happiness levels up, here are five things you can do – starting today:

1. Stop doomscrolling and tune out the negative

Doomscrolling refers to the habit of compulsively reaching out for news as a coping mechanism. While it's important to stay informed during times of rapid change, consuming too much bad news can trigger unhealthy side effects.

Sure, keeping up with the headlines can give us a sense of control during chaotic times. But consuming too much just adds to the stress that we are already feeling.

Instead of an unrelenting diet of bad news, be more intentional about what you’re reading and watching. Try picking up a book or watching shows that take you far away from the headlines. When you do turn to the news, listen to credible sources.

2. Distract yourself with hobbies that make you happy

Dwelling on negative thoughts or information — particularly things we cannot change — exacerbates stress. A temporary distraction can be a great medicine for troubled times.

Distracting yourself can mean finding a new hobby or returning to one you used to enjoy. Consider the activities that used to bring you joy, and give them another shot. Or, learn something new, such as:

  • practicing a new language,
  • starting a physical activity like running or walking, or
  • try drawing or painting your way to a state of contentment.

Can't decide what to take up? There are online groups for practically everything. So research an activity you always wondered about and give it a try.

3. Spend time outdoors to improve your mood

One of the best antidotes to stress is being out in natural surroundings.

Over and over again, studies demonstrate the stress-relieving impact of a simple stroll in a park. Even just looking at photographs of scenes from nature can induce calming effects and a quicker recovery from stress.

If nature isn't accessible, a simple walk around the block can do the trick of improving our mood.

Not only will a bit of physical activity distract you from your worries, it has the added benefit of lifting your spirits. Get out there — even a few minutes a day can do wonders.

Just remember to follow the government’s latest rules around social distancing. For example, you may have gotten used to wearing masks indoors when you’re inside the grocery store or another open place of business. But your provincial government may also recommend wearing masks outdoors when you can’t maintain two metres of physical distance.

Remain alert for any updated recommendations from the government. Some provinces may issue a curfew that requires you to be at home by a certain time. Others may have a stay-at-home order that asks you to remain in your residence unless you:

  • need to get groceries,
  • need to go to the pharmacy,
  • have to see a health-care professional,
  • want to get some exercise, or
  • work in an essential service.

4. Keep celebrating special occasions to maintain your happiness

You know those milestone birthdays and special occasions that usually consist of a big bash? Well, there’s no reason that party can’t go on — just virtually, over video chat. Socializing online has become an essential lifeline for many, and sharing a big event can have lasting effects on the mental health of those you care about.

It might take more inspiration and effort to pull it off, but it's well worth going the extra mile. Try throwing a dance party or game into the celebration, too. Charades, anyone?

But what if you’re fed up with virtual get-togethers? Consider throwing very small, in-person meetups with friends and family within your social bubble. Be sure to follow your government’s rules, recommendations and restrictions around social gatherings. For example, in Ontario, you’re currently allowed to have an outdoor public gathering or social gathering of five people or less.

5. Reduce financial stress and take control of your future

We all have to learn to live with a certain amount of uncertainty. Still, you can lessen some of the stress of the unknown by identifying the things you can control, and taking steps to prepare.

For one, feeling financially secure can counteract uncertainty about your future. A recent Sun Life survey found that 45% of Canadians feel less financially secure since the pandemic began. And, 55% of people 18-34 years old changed their financial goals as a result.

Taking time to review and organize your finances can help you feel less concerned and stressed about the future. Make sure you're prepared for job losses, reduced hours or any unexpected costs by building an emergency fund. That's a sure way to boost feelings of well-being, knowing you're prepared to face whatever may come your way.

  • Need help with your finances? An advisor can help you build a plan that meets your needs and goals. They can also answer questions and address any financial concerns you may have. Most advisors now offer to meet Clients virtually by video chat. Find an advisor today.

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