Bliss may not be the first word you think of during a pandemic. After all, for most of us, this past year has been far from a blissful experience. Our psyches have been flung into a petri-dish of uncertainty, loss of life, jobs, connection, freedom, and fear over the invisible threat of the virus. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has provided an ideal environment for negative emotions to multiply. This begs the question, is it possible to find bliss in a pandemic?
I believe it is. Although bliss is unlikely to sashay through your front door, you'll need some tools to find it.
The Happiness Ladder: Climb Your Way to Bliss
The pandemic is the psychological ultramarathon most of us didn't train for. Messy, shifting moods and emotions have seen us ricochet between themed zoom parties, home workouts, and learning a new language. To being slumped over in our pajamas, avoiding calls and doom scrolling the latest terrifying news. Bolstering our ability to better manage our emotions is the key to finding bliss. And to help you do this, I've developed a strategy called the happiness ladder. It's an easy, science-based strategy to find your bliss (even during this pandemic).
Bolstering our ability to better manage our emotions is the key to finding bliss.
When you're in a dark pit of emotions and feeling weary, you can use happiness as a ladder to climb towards bliss. It's a simple, easy-to-recall three-step process that uses a recognize, reach, respond approach. This strategy has been adapted from elements of neurolinguistic programming, mindfulness, and other therapies to help you choose happiness.
1. Recognize How You Feel
Often when we feel sadness, fear, or anxiety, our strategy is to fight, resist, or these numb feelings. These negative coping strategies can prompt unwanted habits and fuel frustration. At the recognize stage of the ladder, just allow yourself to feel what you feel without any judgment. Simply sit with or invite in your emotions, viewing them neither as an enemy or a friend.
It's through recognizing and accepting how we feel that we can move from 'I feel so sad that I am sad' to simply 'I feel sad.' This helps us separate and distance ourselves from the inner struggle and approach it with greater objectivity.
2. Reach for a More Helpful Choice
Reaching helps prevent us from slipping into rumination. It's here we shift from recognizing our emotions to managing them. Reach is based on the hope that even in the hardest of times, we can reach for a response to ease our suffering. At this stage, the goal is to edge ourselves closer to happiness and bliss. Here are some useful questions at this stage to help guide your thoughts:
3. Respond with Action, Openness, and Curiosity
Respond is the top rung of our happiness ladder, where you step into taking aligned action towards the bliss you want to feel. The response stage of the process requires openness and curiosity to see what works. We're aiming to simply test out if this new way of thinking can move us towards happiness or not. Think about what is the first small action you can take as evidence of change in your response? And consider what small steps you could take each day to align your actions and emotions with your desired response. Remember to keep your expectations in check; it may be ripples of bliss you feel as opposed to a tidal wave.
Lift Others As You Rise
While we are all collectively experiencing the pandemic, our experience is highly individualized. And for some, circumstances will heavily constrain choices. So, as you rise up and find your bliss - lend a hand and lift others. Take time to think about how you can donate your time, give back to charities, check in on friends or play a more active role in your community. As you step out of your emotional chaos, your capacity to give back will help you sustain your feeling of bliss, adding meaning and purpose to your experience.
Discomfort and Bliss
We can engage in emotional gymnastics to avoid negative feelings. It's easier to say we are fine than to admit we're struggling. And it's quicker and simpler to numb, distract and run away from discomforting feelings. But we do this at the cost of our longer-term bliss. Negative emotions exist for a reason. They can be a clarifying force that can jolt us into action if we allow ourselves to recognize them. Finding our bliss during this pandemic means being willing to sit in the discomfort of our emotions. It means asking for help, dropping expectations, and stepping out of comparison. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, just take it one step at a time, edge your way toward moments of bliss and help others do the same.
WRITTEN BYSarah Gregg