By Daniel Rich

This year, we have been dealing with many things happening all at once, the coronavirus, economic uncertainty and millions being unemployed, and political polarization and chaos. As if that is not enough, this time of year, we are faced with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a result of fewer hours of sunlight and cooler days.

Considering all of the above, there are actions and approaches to these challenges that can result in more comfortable and satisfying lives.

  1. A healthy lifestyle. It goes without saying that feeling good goes hand in hand with being happy. This includes the obvious, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and daily exercise. Spending at least fifteen minutes a day outdoors will provide needed vitamin D. Don’t smoke and don’t drink excessively.

The daily exercise could include gardening, housework, hiking, or walking. I ride my bicycle daily, spending 45 to 60 minutes each day, rain or shine.

  1. Do something every day that gives you pleasure.
    Examples are spending time with friends, reading, gardening, cooking, or hiking, or walking. For me, I enjoy photography, writing, being on the computer, helping others with computer projects, or constructing electronic projects.

I am personally passionate about classical music, and I love the programming on KUSC, which I listen to every day, even when bicycling.

  1. Interactions with others. Please be sensitive to the fact many people are stressed out because of unemployment and fears of being infected by the coronavirus. Additionally, many school children sorely miss attending school and are very upset about not being able to be with teachers and friends in a regular classroom.

Try to be especially understanding and compassionate towards others who may be depressed, stressed, or anxious.

  1. Social interactions. This has become more challenging in this day of social isolation and distancing. However, you can still be with others if you are creative, wear a mask, and practice social distancing. Being with family and friends meets important social needs, giving one a sense of being connected, which is essential for good psychological health.
  2. Volunteering and being helpful to others. This accomplishes both a sense of being useful and productive. This may include volunteering, such
    as driving for Senior Nutrition, cooking, or running errands for those who are housebound. Other options might include helping others with their computers.

When regular schooling returns, mentoring students is both appreciated and rewarding.

  1. Holiday activities and commitments. The holiday season can bring about a myriad of activities and obligations. It is prudent to prioritize one’s activities and obligations to not overload or overextend yourself.

Also, note that both family and friends’ overly high expectations and unrealistic wishes can result in disillusionment and unhappiness. Also the memory
of the passing of a family member can be especially painful at the holidays.

  1. Self-actualization. This means being yourself, trusting your own values and priorities, instincts, and intuitions.

It means allowing yourself to embrace whatever emotions you are feeling, whether these are feelings or anxiety or depression.

Some individuals are afraid of looking at their own feelings, fearful that they will lose control.
It may be seen as counter-intuitive, but I believe that just
the opposite is true, and that the more you are in touch with yourself, the more you will actually be in control.

Sharing your feelings with those you trust can be reassuring and validating.

  1. Gratitude, an appreciation for the blessings in life. Even in today’s world of uncertainty and chaos, there is much to be grateful for. We are blessed with being in a great location, great weather, family, and friends.

Also, remember that the winter season of cold and darkness will morph into great weather most of the year. As unending as it may seem, we will win the coronavirus battle, and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. As a country, we are strong and will survive the current political chaos.

My hope is you found this article helpful and that at least some of the activities, approaches, and attitudes listed above will be of value to you.

Your comments or reactions are welcomed.

Dan Rich is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at