It’s safe to say that the past year hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Grand travel escapades have had to be put on hold; some of us haven’t seen our loved ones in over a year; and we’ve all had to grapple with the many ways the pandemic has altered and affected our day-to-day routines. With such uncertainty and upheaval, it’s no surprise that many of us have found ourselves more stressed out, anxious and perhaps even depressed than normal.
20 March marks World Happiness Day – a day that’s been commemorated by the United Nations since 2013 as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. And while there are no quick fixes for a bad case of the doldrums, we’ve rounded up some suggestions and tips to help boost your dopamine levels and hopefully give your mood a bit of a lift.
1. Travel virtually… but with a difference
Be it virtual museum tours or Google Earth expeditions of picturesque national parks, the only travelling most of us have done this year is through our screens. While it’s obviously a far cry from the real thing, the experience of figuratively transporting yourself to a different location, culture or place in time – much as we do when we’re watching documentaries – has the mood-boosting effect of shifting our perspective, allowing us to step out of our humdrum routines and reminding us that there is indeed a bigger world out there. Conceptualised by Singapore-based couple Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, Window Swap allows you to travel the world by browsing through a series of crowd-sourced views from people’s windows. Sit back and watch as the morning sun streams into a home in Moscow; bear witness to an electrifying nighttime thunderstorm in Lisbon; or get a glimpse of the verdant mountain landscape in South Korea.
2. Sip on quality natural wines
While you never need a reason to indulge in a couple of glasses of wine, we’ve got one for you anyway: when consumed in moderation, wine has been proven to increase the release of both dopamine and serotonin –two of the main chemicals associated with feelings of happiness and pleasure – in our brains. The next time you feel in need of an alcoholic pick-me-up, we suggest getting together a group of friend and heading down to one of Singapore’s natural wine bars for a few tipples (natural wines lack sulphites and generally contain less alcohol than conventional varieties, so you may be less likely to wake up with a hangover). Le Bon Funk along Club Street, Wine RVLT in the Clarke Quay area and Rebel Rebel at Bukit Pasoh Road are all solid options, with extensive natural wine offerings and delicious food to match.
3. Set aside time for daily meditation
With all the uncertainty swirling about our lives these days, it can be hard to feel at peace. For an easy remedy that won’t take up too much of your time, why not try meditating for a short amount of time each day? Different studies have claimed that the practice can help to rewire your brain by resetting your happiness baseline; reduce levels of stress; increase mindfulness and boost overall feelings of positivity and satisfaction. You can get started by taking five or ten minutes at the start or end of your day to sit in silence with your eyes closed, and simply breathe in and out. If you feel like you could use some guidance, there are plenty of meditation tutorials you can look up on YouTube. Alternatively, download an app like Headspace or Calm, which both offer free and paid tiers with meditation routines targeting different areas.
4. Get outdoors and soak up the sun
Vitamin D – which is sometimes dubbed the Sunshine Vitamin – is produced by your body in response to sunlight. It’s also referred to as the happy hormone for its role in helping to boost moods and combat depression by triggering dopamine and serotonin production within your body. Thankfully, living in sunny Singapore means that we’re blessed with year-round sunshine, and aren’t vulnerable to the seasonal depression that can affect those living in places with four seasons. Take World Happiness Day as an invitation to get out there and soak up the sunshine at one of the city-state’s many nature parks, hiking trails and beaches. Those who want to strap on their hiking boots and discover an untouched forest can venture to Clementi Forest; while the Southern Ridges is a great option for a long, meandering hike. And if you’re just in the mood to lounge by the water while getting a tan, you can make your way to East Coast Park or one of the beaches at Sentosa.
5. Share a laugh with someone far away
The widespread closure of international borders for the past year has separated many families and friends. And despite the best intentions to stay connected through regular phone and video calls, such catch-up dates often fall to the wayside when we get busy with work, daily tasks and other things that require our immediate attention. The next time you get a sliver of free time, pick up the phone, have a chat and share a laugh with faraway friend or family member. Human beings are social creatures at the end of the day, so even a brief virtual interaction with someone you hold dear will likely elicit positive feelings that will make you feel happier, more connected and perhaps even a little less alone.
6. Plan your next great vacation
Although international leisure travel may still be some ways away, there’s no reason that you can’t start planning your post-pandemic trip now. It may even help boost your happiness levels in the midst of quarantine fatigue. A recent United States-based study commissioned by various travel companies and carried out by the Institute for Applied Positive Research concluded that 97% of respondents feel happier when they have a forthcoming trip on the horizon; while 71% of them claimed to have more energy when they have a trip slated for within the next six months. The anticipation of future travel, it seems, has the ability to boost our moods by giving us something to look forward to. In need of some inspiration? Check out our city guides to places such as New York, Cape Town and Tokyo, or view our recent stories on remote destinations, under-the-radar Southeast Asian cities and culture hotspots that we’re hoping to travel to once borders open up again.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.