Make game-changing choices in work, romance, friendships, and health.
Originally published May 26, 2021 on psychologytoday.com
- During the pandemic, only 14 percent of people reported being happy, but many are hopeful that they will have life satisfaction in the future.
- There is a distinct difference between happiness and satisfaction. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, while satisfaction is lasting.
- Post-pandemic, we have many options to choose from to find happiness or satisfaction in work, relationships, friendships, and health.
If you’re worried and fear your ability to find post-pandemic happiness or satisfaction, I want to encourage you to be optimistic. The pandemic has reinforced how adaptable we are as humans to even the most dire and gravest assaults on our well-being and survival.
For example, in June 2020, the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, concluded just 14 percent of American adults were happy down from 31 percent who said the same in 2018. And twice as many Americans (28 percent) described how the physical or mental health of themselves or the people they care about has degraded as the pandemic has dragged on. A more recent poll taken a few months ago found many Americans (89 percent) mentioned at least one negative change in their own lives, while a smaller share (though still a 73 percent majority) mentioned at least one unexpected upside.
In addition, according to the annual 2021 World Happiness Report, researchers discovered that between 65.8 and 69.2 percent of Americans expect their life satisfaction to be at least an ‘8’ five years from now, (on a scale of 1 to 10), and respondents from 95 countries feel their life satisfaction remains steady (most people rated 7 before the pandemic). This data suggests there’s a palpable and renewed sense of hope and optimism for the future.
To understand this better, it helps to know there’s a difference between happiness and satisfaction. Happiness is a dopamine burst, a fleeting feeling. Satisfaction is lasting. Throughout the pandemic, people had to pivot and redefine what happiness and satisfaction meant in their lives. Some described moments of happiness as a “drive-by” from a family member and satisfaction as being able to live and bond with extended family in a way that had been unplanned.
In this emerging post-pandemic awakening and reshaping of what might become the new normal, many people feel a tangible sense of fear and uncertainty about whether they will find happiness/satisfaction in the future. Most of my clients have been most concerned about their employment, the state of their relationship status, interpersonal relationships, and their health and wellness choices.
Using our adaptability and natural instincts as humans are keys to navigating and making the most of our transition into the new normal. Here are some recommendations to help you evaluate your level of adaptability in four crucial areas of your life.
1. Look at your employment through a new lens.
Many people have been working remotely and there’s a strong likelihood of a permanent hybrid type of work environment. You may get to do something you never dreamed or imagined possible, like residing in another state, far away from where you work. The changes in commuting requirements may also change the type of employment that may be appealing. Consider these issues from a work/life balance perspective and as it relates to your ability to know your co-workers. Think about these choices authentically and how they may affect your happiness, satisfaction, and new employment goals for the future.
2. Define your relationship pursuits and desires.
Relationships took a major hit during the pandemic — many people put them on hold, some broke up, and a few started new ones. Rejuvenating or starting anew can be daunting. Honestly, ask yourself what you desire in a relationship and will pursue. What would make for a satisfying relationship for you now? Have your requirements changed? Has what you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic altered what you desire and need? Or are your expectations the same as they were before the pandemic started?
3. Are you satisfied with your interpersonal relationships?
What brings you feelings of joy (happiness) or satisfaction are personal. If your brain adjusted to more independence during the pandemic and that feels right now, embrace what feels authentic. Finding satisfaction is what’s important. You will find moments of happiness looking within. We know humans require social contact, but our desire often dictates to us when and how much. Only you can find personal satisfaction for yourself in the time to choose to spend with your friends.
4. Make the best health and wellness choices.
Lean into a health and wellness regimen that feels the best for you and will enable you to sustain ongoing self-care for an extended period. Now that most gyms have reopened and can operate at 100 percent capacity, a plethora of “at-home” and “away” options are available to maintain your health and wellness program. You can fuse remote classes with in-person exercise classes. And if you’re satisfied with what you’ve been doing and don’t feel the need to change, don’t put any pressure on yourself to change.
This is a time in our history where there are more options than ever before. The choices that work well for you in all areas of your life will bring either moments of happiness or ongoing satisfaction; maybe even both—if you’re lucky.
“In Their Own Words Americans Describe the Struggles, Silverling of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Pewresearch.org, by Patrick Van Kessel, Chris Baronavski, Alissa Scheller and Aaron Smith, 03/17,2021
“Americans Are The Unhappiest They’ve Been in 50 Years,” NBC News, by Associated Press, 06/16/2020