This is a week where everyone is asking, “How was your Thanksgiving?” Responses I have heard range from “I’ve had better” to “Very nice, considering.” I’ve yet to hear an unqualified “Fantastic!”
That’s probably to be expected in a pandemic, but it is not tolerated here on Planet Janet, where we are also infected with a pervasive optimism for which there is no known cure. Allow me to spread the gladness germ.
First, there’s no point in pontificating on the reasons we should be grateful — every talk show host or news anchor—if there’s really a difference—is doing that, affecting a little crack in the voice and squeezing a tiny tear from the corner of an eye. Give me a break! False empathy doesn’t salve the isolating, depressive effects of COVID-19. You have to make your own joy. What’s more, you have to put your whole self into it, as if you are doing a vigorous Hokey Pokey. We will now pause so readers under the age of twenty can Google “Hokey Pokey.”
One of the proven ways to feel happy is to make someone else happy. Though I’m inclined to trust wholly the lyrics to the Jimmy Durante song, “Make someone happy,” many of you academically-inclined readers have come to expect solid research from a seasoned journalist. So, I say, good luck finding one!
Actually, a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology a couple of years ago interrogated the effects of a kindness intervention on alterations in subjective happiness. And if you would kindly wake up, I will explain: performing acts of kindness is proven to boost feelings of happiness and well-being.
Seems to me a pandemic is the perfect time to perform a few arbitrary acts of kindness.
Why not start by supporting a struggling local business? Please take off your shoes and socks right now and take an honest look at the twenty-six bones and thirty joints in each foot that support you, for the most part without complaint, all day long. You can safely get a pedicure while wearing a mask, and men — don’t scoff — this is not a feminizing activity. It is a hygienic activity. I guarantee you will experience no lowering of your testosterone levels when you lower your feet into a warm, massaging foot bath. You will enter the nail salon an ungulate and emerge a proper primate.
The local nail salon I frequent has the added benefit of a piped-in playlist of music entirely from the 1970s. It’s hard to feel low when John Denver is singing “Rocky Mountain High,” although I must admit that these days I have a whole new take on the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive.”
Online holiday shopping may be convenient and safe in a pandemic, but—masked and armed with hand sanitizer—you can shop local, too. I have discovered that putting on a mask cuts down on the time-consuming need for men to shave and women to wear makeup. In fact, you can even get away with not washing your hair, because pandemic people mostly make eye contact with your clever mask.
Of course, you don’t have to spend money to do something kind. Time—the most precious and possibly underrated commodity on earth—is free, and can be given to neighbors or perfect strangers who need a helping hand. Small, gracious gestures work as well. Write a thank-you note to someone who has influenced you. Walk your cart back to the front of the store when you’re done shopping. All day tomorrow, say hello to everyone you pass on the street.
Join me and perform one small act of kindness every day for the next week. Alter your pandemic perspective.
One other benefit — happy people tend to be healthier, so this kindness commitment might boost your immune system. I’m sure there’s a study out there that validates this claim, but I’m late to my pedicure appointment.