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Why you should give yourself permission to find joy

Maria Hollenhorst May 7, 2020
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Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images
COVID-19

Why you should give yourself permission to find joy

Maria Hollenhorst May 7, 2020
Heard on:
Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Earlier this week, we reported results from our ongoing Marketplace-Edison Research Poll showing a spike in Americans’ “economic anxiety.”

Thursday we learned that 3.2 million people filed jobless claims last week. That brings the total number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 crisis hit the United States to more than 33 million people. And Friday, the government will release what’s sure to be one of the grimmest monthly jobs reports in U.S. history.

But even with anxiety-inducing headlines coming every day, experts say we should give ourselves permission to find joy. 

“All emotions are fair game right now,” Dr. Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, California, told “Marketplace.” “The accumulation of stress and anxiety over time is very detrimental to people as far as their cardiovascular systems, immune systems and everything. So being able to step away from that and feel joy, the absence of all those stress hormones, is very beneficial,” he said. 

“The more we feel joy, the more it actually helps others,” said Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin who studies self-compassion.

“Emotions are contagious,” she said. “So feeling joy isn’t necessarily a selfish thing. It might even uplift the spirits of those around you.”

Krista Vernoff, a television showrunner for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Station 19” and a screenwriter, tweeted a story about one way she’s found joy during the coronavirus crisis ⁠— taking a singing lesson.

“I very nearly burst into tears,” she wrote after successfully belting for the first time. “It’s the feeling of accomplishment. And it’s the feeling of having been brave enough to try something new and risk failure. And the feeling of having successfully harnessed joy for even a little while amidst the insanity of this moment in history.”

Vernoff pointed out that feeling miserable does not help people who are dying or the people trying to help them.

“Doing things that lift us out of despair so that we can continue to be productive members of society and help and support each other does help,” she wrote.

Neff at UT Austin did offer one caveat: “Make sure that you aren’t using the joy as a way to cover up or suppress the pain,” she said. “But if something like singing gives you joy? Absolutely, you should be doing it.”

Click the audio player above to hear Vernoff’s story or keep scrolling to read her Twitter thread.

If you’ve seen a Twitter thread that you’d like to hear on air, tweet it to @Marketplace.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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