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5 Things You Can Do To Become Happier In MCO, According To An Expert

Have you done any of these yet?

Some may be feeling anxious being trapped in a house with their parents and siblings and grandparents, or housemates. While there are others who have already accepted this new norm, and are thriving and killing this “work from home” and “cook at home” reality. Well, if you are the latter, this article may not be for you.

How Can We Be Happier In Movement Control Order (MCO)?

How do we boost our happiness in this unprecedented times, especially for Malaysians where our lives revolve around eating (out a lot), cooking (at home sometimes), and sharing food (all the time)? How do we navigate and thrive in this new norm? We spoke with Dr. Grace Lee Hooi Yean, an associate professor of economics at Monash University Malaysia, on this matter. Dr. Lee has over 18 years of teaching experience in the field of economics and she has conducted a survey on some 1,300 Malaysians on the topic of happiness, where she found that Malaysians are generally quite happy – about 67% said that they were happy.

Here I present to you the secrets to becoming a happier person in this MCO period, when you are suppressed of local hawkers eateries and open karaoke at Thunderbird by ChinChin.

1. Eat Around The Table With Family Members

Photo: Hong Leong Bank Chinese New Year Advertisement (Official)

Or.. whoever you are stuck with in the house this MCO period. According to a 2012 survey done by Chun Min Soo, an academic staff member at Monash Malaysia, the results collected from more than 4,000 schools and 100,000 students and parents across 11 countries, showed that the more often parents have meals with their children around a table, the happier the children were. The survey at that time was conducted through Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), where they were evaluating students’ sense of belonging.

Photo: Number of sampled schools and students (Credit: Chun Min Soo)

“The number of times children have meals with their parents around a table is actually a very significant determinant of the student’s sense of belonging, leading to an increased level of happiness. This MCO is a fabulous opportunity for families to bond together over meals. Some of my friends who don’t cook at home, now they are starting to cook. And whether the food tastes good or bad, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are doing this together as a family,” said Dr. Lee.

Reality check: We love family time… but what about the nagging parent that sometimes unleash the frustrations in us? 

2. Practice Tolerance

Photo: Chinese character translation of “Tolerance”

 “That brings me to my second point, tolerance,” Lee said with a laugh. She stated that tolerance goes both ways – people who’s happier are more tolerant, and when you are more tolerant, you tend to be happier because you have better relationships with people around you. She added that it’s rough to be confined in a space with your spouses and kids everyday. She’s seen parents who are frustrated with their 4-year-olds, just because the child refuses to do homework at home.

“I read the news that canes have been sold out in Singapore’s stores. It’s tough but we have to take things easy and have tolerance,” Lee said.

Photo: Dr. Grace Lee Hooi Yean, an associate professor of economics at Monash University (Credit: Dr. Lee)

She advised people to show more empathy, refuse from talking when angry, and take a step back and breathe.

3. Exercise Together

Photo: @rotumanwahine (Instagram)

Dr. Lee is now quarantining at home with her two teenage children and husband, where they would do Tabata workouts and laugh at each others’ silly movements.

“To have good mental health, you need to first have good physical health,” Lee said.

There are plenty of online workout videos on YouTube and Facebook in this MCO season. As 3.6 billion people globally continue to stay at home, many big brands, small businesses, and personal trainers are holding Instagram and Facebook live workout sessions to gather their consumers and audiences online. Yoga With Adriene is one of our editor’s favorites.

4. Pick Up A New Hobby

Photo: @naturasugars (Instagram)

Professionals have advised people to not hold themselves to the same standards in this quarantine season, as they would on normal days. A quarantine is not all about strategizing ways to maximize your productivity, but also to take care of yourself in this unprecedented time, as your body and mind learn to adapt. Dr. Lee said that picking up a new hobby, like learning how to cook through online video tutorials or other online learnings, will help boost happiness.

What is a hobby you ask? Is binge watching dramas considered a hobby? Well, apparently a research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that binge watchers usually have poor sleep quality. But we got you, Foodies! Here are examples of some mindful hobbies that can relax, inspire, and enrich your soul:

  • Knitting
  • Dancing
  • Meditating
  • Painting
  • Learning a new language
  • Picking up a new instrument
  • Writing
  • Baking

The benefits? Studies have shown that people who engage in hobbies tend to have better moods, are more curious, have less stress, are more confident and have healthier self-esteem.

5. Do Community Work

Photo: Dr. Lee (middle) with the National Blind Futsal Team (Credit: Dr. Lee)

There is a term called warm glowing – an economic theory describing the emotional reward of giving to others. It basically means that when you do your part to help others, you will experience a sense of joy and satisfaction!

“Now that we can’t go out physically to help others, there are still ways to give in this season, like making donations within your own means,” Lee said.

Yes, helping others will increase your level of happiness. It can be as simple as assisting your 7-year-old niece with her phonics homework. (Wait.. is that even considered community work?) Or you can be like the engineers from ZDA who created the virus buster to fight COVID-19, or the prisoners in Kuantan who are contributing to the society by sewing personal protection equipments (PPEs) for frontliners!

*interview has been edited and condensed for clarity*

Bottomline:

At the end of the day, we are emotional beings and not robots. Yes, in this MCO period, you will lose your temper, you will get frustrated. There will be days where you get your work done, and there will days where you are just binging on Crash Landing On You while finishing 3 packs of Oreos and 2 packs of Cherry Tomato Bomb Twisties. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine! Forgive yourself. Remember: stay home, wash your hands, have meals with your family (without phones), and practice tolerance!

Read also: How To Make Kuih Bahulu With 3 Simple Ingredients

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