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Forget passively browsing through social media, new research has identified five activities that can help you feel happier – even during a pandemic.
Resilience is not a fixed trait, say researchers from the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It can be cultivated – and when we increase resilience, we experience more frequent positive emotional states.
Data was collected from more than 600 adults around the US, asking about their experiences and behaviours. So, what can you do to ‘hack’ your way to happiness?
Exercising, as well as self-care – so, engaging in hobbies and carving out time to relax – and spiritual activities such as prayer and meditation, were associated with positive emotions.
And researchers said the more stressed, anxious, lonely or depressed you are, the more it matters that you take time to exercise and care for yourself.
Social connection is also vital for a person’s health and happiness, they said, and have, as a result, called for the term “social distancing” to be changed – because actually, we all need social interactions right now to keep us buoyant.
While spending time passively browsing social media (scrolling through feeds, looking for updates) was strongly linked to negative feelings, people who spent more time actively interacting with others experienced more positive and fewer negative emotions. This was true for introverts and extroverts alike – and was particularly beneficial for people living alone.
How you interact was found to make all the difference though. Time spent interacting face-to-face or by voice or video call was linked to more positive emotions, whereas time spent in text-based interaction – for example, emailing, Whatsapping or texting – did not. So, you need to actually see or hear the people you’re communicating with to feel better.
Researchers suggest this is because it’s harder to establish a meaningful connection with someone via text. They added that meaningful connections with others must be the priority.
Lastly, people who go out of their way to help others – doing shopping for elderly neighbours, helping out at food banks, donating blood, volunteering for befriending services – experience more positive states than those who don’t.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.