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Mar 19
Happiness in a time of isolation

​By: Willemien Jansen (Copy and Content Editor)

The International Day of Happiness was first celebrated by the United Nations on 20 March 2013 and was instituted to recognise the importance of happiness in our lives.

The General Assembly of the United Nations recognised the importance of happiness and well-being as something that all human beings aspire to. It is a day to be happy, but also one to acknowledge the world-wide need for a more "inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all people."

There has always been a yearning for a sense of belonging, comfort and security that is universal and manifests in concepts such as Hygge or Gemütlichkeit.

During the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing and isolation that it has caused, we may need to redefine "happiness" and how we achieve a sense of well-being. This, amidst job losses, mourning loved ones and dealing with the many COVID-19 restrictions that have been put in place, even governments have recognised that their people are struggling, not only financially and physically, but emotionally. The Japanese Government recently announced that it has appointed its first Minister of Loneliness. This minister, Tetsushi Sakamoto, is charged with dealing with the problems of isolation and loneliness in Japan, after this country saw a spike in suicide rates for the first time in 11 years. The rate of suicides in 2020 are more than three times higher than the number of COVID-19 deaths in Japan in the same year.

It is unclear how Japan's new minister will tackle the task, but hopefully a precedent can be set for the rest of the world to follow. The fact that a government has decided to address the mental health issues of its citizens in this manner, should at least remind us that we are not alone in our loneliness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have laid out a few guidelines for how we can deal with stress and isolation during the pandemic:

1.       Take a break from the news, including that on social media:

It is good and important to be informed, but an overload of COVID-19 news and constantly exposing yourself to information about the pandemic, can be upsetting and depressing. It can cause stress and feelings of hopelessness. Consider limiting your news exposure and screen time to a couple of time a day.

2.       Take care of your body:

The worse you feel mentally, the easier it is to neglect your body, but there are many easy things you can do at home to give your body a boost. Try to stick to an exercise schedule and sleep routine. There are many free exercise routines available online that vary in difficulty and pace.  Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco and other substance use. Make meals fun by looking for new, easy and interesting recipes online and make the whole family join in meal prep process. Do breathing exercises, stretch, or meditate to calm your mind and help you relax.

3.       Make time to unwind:

Have fun! The internet is a wonderful resource and you can find many fun and relaxing activities that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Try spending time outside and in nature if possible. Read, play with your pets, journal, try something new. Once you've opened your mind and do some research, you will realise that the possibilities are endless!

4.       Connect with others:

Don't be shy or afraid to talk about your feelings. Chances are, most people in your circle are feeling the exact same way that you are. Reach out to the people you trust and talk about how you are really feeling.

5.       Connect with your community- or faith-based organisations:

Even though we miss giving out hugs, other physical contact and simply just being around other people, there are other ways that we can connect. Use the technology at your disposal to connect with people via social media, email, phone or even by mail. You will again realise that you are not as alone as you think, and there are wonderful support structures out there that will help you regain a sense of normalcy.

Happiness is so important to our well-being that the UN dedicated an entire day to it! Let's use this year's International Day of Happiness to remind ourselves that we CAN be happy and even thrive during an isolating pandemic. All it takes is some is a little effort and thinking outside the box.

Get in touch with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group if you happen to feel depressed:

For counselling queries e-mail:

To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, call: 011 234 4837 or fax: 011 234 8182

For a suicide emergency contact SADAG on 0800 567 567

24hr Helpline 0800 456 789

Facebook: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group

Twitter: @TheSADA


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