After weeks of isolation and lockdown in this global pandemic, I find myself beginning to enjoy it. That may seem weird to some people but I live with Clinical Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So I have good days and bad days and it’s definitely been a bit of a roller coaster. Like this, it gets me double the effort to boost my own happiness, believe me.

Having a mental illness has been a real learning curve. I know I will always have it, but I have decided not to let it define or control me, and have learnt how to manage it and live a relatively normal life. Actually, I love being on my own and am not one who needs people around me constantly. I am Empath, meaning that I pick up on other people’s energy and absorb their emotions and even sometimes their pain. This means choosing wisely who I spend my time with as it can often leave me exhausted.

So having an excuse not to socialise has been a blessing in disguise to me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for glamming it up and having a good night ‘out out’ too and I do love spending time with friends and family. I just have to limit it, as my mind gets overwhelmed sometimes. Additionally, I find I have to protect myself from stressful situations or places that are too crowded or noisy, and I need time to quieten my mind and regular times of solitude to recharge.

How to boost your own happiness?

During lockdown some days I feel so inadequate and like I’m not achieving anything.  If I’m not learning a new skill, doing an online workout, baking fancy cakes, and sharing online pictures of a Zoom Party I feel like frankly, a bit of a failure. But that’s okay. Many of us are guilty of putting ourselves under so much pressure to overachieve and with the increased online noise, due to people working from home it’s only inevitable that we will feel this way. This too shall pass and eventually we will get back to a ‘new’ normal.

It occurred to me that the most positive thing that has come out of this pandemic is kindness. The number of people offering their help to others less fortunate has been overwhelming. I see it online, in supermarkets on the roads, and in the parks too. People just seem less angry and somehow calmer in a way. Places where people wouldn’t normally make eye contact or smile at you, I find, they now do. I’m getting this in a sense of our community pulling together.

Some loose thoughts about boosting our own happiness

I am a strong believer that kindness breeds kindness and after I became very mentally unwell I found helping others actually helped me with my recovery. If everyone did one random act of kindness a day, I am sure that would have a knock-on effect. Kindness costs nothing and can be as simple as talking about the weather to a little old lady, who may not have spoken to anyone all day. Something so small and easy can mean the world to someone. I talk with firsthand knowledge as two strangers saved my life by doing just that, being kind.

They gave up their time to pull me off a train track, as I tried to take my own life. They waited with me for over two hours and one of the men even came in the ambulance to the hospital with me. I will be forever grateful to them and feel so fortunate to be alive now. Their kindness inspired me to help others, by setting up a mental health support group online and also Mental Health Mates Newbury which is a peer support walking group. Helping others has helped me in my recovery.

Research shows that performing any type of kindness boosts your happiness. One person doing a small act of kindness for a stranger can influence that person, themselves, and everyone who witnesses it. It kind of gives people a warm and uplifting high.

Emma Mitchell