When the pandemic rules began to loosen earlier this year, I felt a little joy every time I did something that was off limits for months. The deployment of vaccines has made the once-common activity almost mysterious.
Embrace your parents and friends. Have a haircut. Wander the aisle of the grocery store.
But as my new routine, well, became a routine, that extra joy boost disappeared.
This is human nature, for better or for worse. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, says that we tend to adapt quickly to change and happiness levels return to baseline, even after major setbacks and outcomes.
It is the key to our success as a seed. She said that adapting can help you be more resilient in the face of challenges such as divorce and injury, and continue to work harder after good things happen.
However, there are ways to recreate the joy of the post-blockage by practicing gratitude.
Lubomiaski’s advice is as follows: Stop once a day and thank you for what you can do now, not last year. You can take a mental note, talk to your partner, send a text message to your friends, or write it down in your diary.
The method doesn’t matter as long as you’re deliberately trying to admit that things have improved. This is a version of what psychologists call “save” — thanks to the little ones around us for trying to increase happiness.
On Labor Day weekend, we started discussing what we were doing at the same time last year, celebrating a friend’s birthday in a park in Los Angeles. With record heat and dangerous smoky air in Los Angeles last September, I realized that the pandemic was far more horrifying.
For at least a while, I was grateful for what my life was like now.
So in 2021, the wild carefree summer we wanted didn’t come true, but it’s possible that we’re still out of the house a year ago. And there is room for gratitude and happiness in it.
Practicing gratitude can help reduce health problems and depression, improve sleep, and improve your level of well-being. According to Lubomiaski, thanking the little joys of our lives could be added to make us happy people overall.
A few months from now, you may not feel as good as when you first returned to a restaurant or visited your relatives away. But a pandemic can teach us how to find joy in the little things we might have overlooked without it.
What we are eating
In her latest newsletter, Times California restaurant critic Tehar Lao shares three recipes for lentil dal.
Where we are traveling
Today’s travel tips come from reader Mimi Kramer, who lives in San Diego. Mimi recommends visiting Julian, a small town in eastern San Diego County.
Visit historic hotels and tour the sideries. Needless to say, get the best apple pie.
What is your favorite place in California? Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. More will be shared in future editions of the newsletter.
During wildfires, pandemics and droughts, this California summer has never been easier.
So, as September 22nd comes to the end of the season, I ask you to share what helped you get it done. Maybe it was a vacation you postponed, a messy TV show, a delicious meal you made, or your nightly walk.