Friendship is one of the main keys to well-being

Back in mid-March, at the start of this absurd and painful Covid-19 lockdown, a dear friend of mine suggested I took a look at this article: Yale’s most popular class ever is available free online — and the topic is how to be happier in your daily life

And I immediately decided to enroll. Never was a choice more fit for the situation!

What the Course was about

A short description: in 2018, the Yale University psychology professor Laurie Santos unveiled a new course, Psychology and the Good Life. The subject was happiness. After so many people asked for access to the course, Santos designed to create a course for the online learning platform Coursera, and called it The Science of Well-Being, available for free to non-Yale students. The course had a 10-week duration and required, as a final assignment, that students should write about the new behavior introduced and practiced in their lives after following the suggestions provided during the lectures. These lectures were based on, and explained, some solid scientific research.

Improving my own habits through yoga

First of all, let me repeat it: we live in a time where a pandemic has shattered every given point of reference. My job as conference interpreter was heavily struck by the crisis and many assignments were cancelled or postponed.

Having said this, during the lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19, I decided to pick as rewirement, “Doing yoga in the morning immediately after waking up and without having breakfast” (mainly via YouTube lessons on Yoga with Adriene or Yoga Clinic). That was for three reasons: I had struggled all my life to practice some sport in that specific part of the day, I knew from scientific research that yoga increases the focus on the here and now, improves health and boosts determination and, last but not least, yoga is perfect for stretching muscles and increasing core strength in view of my rock climbing practice.

Social commitment, pros and cons

I did not actually commit socially to this rewirement as I was afraid of being judged as a freak. Nevertheless, I told everyone I was attending a Yale University course on the Science of Well-Being because that name resonated in everybody’s mind and I hoped that somebody might follow my example. Eventually, nobody engaged, but getting closer to yoga also gave me the great chance to know better a lovely colleague who helped me along the way. Plus, totally out of the blue came a friend who invited me to yoga sessions on Zoom on Sunday mornings.

The final 4-week challenge was something very personal since I needed to overcome sad feelings and fight off the sensation of being helpless. I actually wanted to avoid social comparisons but for sure I planned to celebrate the end of this journey with a Post on my Blog, and here I am!

Doing Yoga in the morning

Doing sport is already a well-established routine in my life. But with the lockdown, climbing was made impossible. So the challenge was to constantly do yoga at a very delicate time of the day such as the morning. Therefore, I grounded on the positive feelings triggered by physical activity and built new strategies upon that. I understood that sleeping more is an annoying bias: my body does not need to sleep more than 7/8 hours! Having so much time affluence allowed me to invest in this experience and be more intentionally effortful to reset my reference points. The WOOP framework (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) helped me to search for the right wish, experience the outcome, detect obstacles and plan how to overcome them.

In 28 days of rewirements, I completed my morning yoga session 20 times. To monitor the progress, I hung on the wall the printed version of a “week 7-10 rewirements” pdf and every day I wrote meaningful progress reports on the practice. Empty circles reflect uneventful days where everything went as planned.

Realizing how happy I was

My happiness scores increased notably in the Authentic Happiness Inventory (a validated, 24-question survey that measures overall well-being). You, too, can complete the test HERE.

Building this new habit triggered a whole series of fresh encouraging attitudes. I perceived that feeling well is something you can’t get enough of and the more people you touch with it, the more it resonates. Along those dark days a far-away friend sent me a few gifts that made me feel so important and less alone: did she know what I was going through?

I also managed to get into closer contact with my signature strengths, namely curiosity and love of learning. The mornings in which I did not do yoga, I could still feel the voice of my trainer in my head as I memorized her suggestions and sentences. On the way to my disciplined path I:

  • Got closer to my local group of Emergency, a humanitarian NGO that provides free medical treatment to the victims of war, poverty and landmines;
  • Enrolled in a Glasgow University Course on “Interpreting for refugees”
  • Engaged with a colleague in audio-visual training for conference interpreting
  • Drank less coffee
  • Started to post every day on Twitter the Articles from the Italian Constitution (#Costituzione: one of the best-written Constitutions in the whole world) to share some constructive thoughts.

I feel emotionally richer now and with a grown mindset thanks to all these insights and new experiences. I also feel an improvement during rock climbing!