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My Happiness Journal During The Start Of A Pandemic – March 2020

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Published on , last updated on October 3, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, life used to be normal.

Now, the amount of change that happened throughout the past couple of weeks is just insane. With all that’s happening in the world right now, it seems weird to think that my happiness is actually not that different. That’s what I want to focus on in this monthly happiness journal update!

Here’s a summary of what happened in March:

  • Work sucked haaaaaaaard during the first couple of days of the month.
  • I enjoyed my normal life after a lovely relaxing weekend.
  • The Coronavirus landed in the Netherlands.
  • I actually started “enjoying” my starting to work from home.
  • Our planned holiday and weekend getaway were canceled due to the virus.
  • Social life is non-existent due to the virus.
  • Loooooots of relaxing at home.
  • The impact on my happiness is actually not that bad…

This update will focus on how March quickly transformed from my everyday life into a weird semi-quarantined life inside a very small bubble.

Here are my personal happiness ratings of march, neatly presented in a simple line chart:

My average happiness rating in March was 7.22, which is exceptionally low

However, it’s not entirely to blame on this Coronavirus.

In fact, my work had a bigger impact on my happiness, which you can see in the graph below. The first couple of days were very rough and stressful, which resulted in a couple of unhappy days.

A peek inside my happiness journal

I always re-read a part of my journal when writing these monthly updates. It’s a nice moment to look back at how I did throughout the month, and I always catch some interesting things that I wrote.

Here’s one entry that piqued my interest, which I wrote on the 3rd of March. I rated this day with a 7 on my happiness scale from 1 to 10.

Busy busy day at work. It feels like I’ve not had a moment’s rest. I was in continuous meetings, calls and discussions with colleagues. All while trying to keep my own projects going.

It’s actually quite depressing. At work, I’m the busy, inspired and optimistic Hugo. Or at least, that’s how I think my colleagues see me.

But after work, the moment I leave the office and drive home, the mask comes off and the exhausted and depressed Hugo comes out. The Hugo that has 0 energy left over for the stuff that actually makes him happy. Fucking hell…

Today was pretty bad, so I just ordered take-away and crashed on the couch with my girlfriend. It’s all I had energy for… After watching Game of Thrones (which I still very much like), we went for a long walk and that’s it. Another day gone, a day without anything really fun or interesting happening. I hate these days where work gets to determine my day.

This is exactly the kind of impact I don’t want my work to have on my life.

Honestly, I like my job. I’ve liked it for a big part of my career. But the past year, it’s been slowly degrading into a more stressful environment, and it’s been eating at me all this time.

This got really bad on the 6th of March, which I rated with a 4.5 on my happiness scale. It was one of the worst days in quite a while, and it was all due to the constant stress at work.

It was actually so bad, that I decided to push my resignation (I decided to leave the company a couple of months ago) a month forward. I call my manager and said I would leave ASAP, which would end up being the last day of April. That’s how much I hated my job at the time.

Enjoying my normal life again

After a day-off – and a lovely weekend – I got back to my normal life.

My girlfriend and I went outside as much as possible, to enjoy the beautiful weather in the Netherlands, to get better at photography and to just enjoy our time.

These were the only days that were actually “normal” in March, and we tried to make the most of them.

beautiful outside march 2020
I loved spending time outside in March while it was still possible.

capturing a stork march 2020
I also tried to get better with our new camera. I was pretty happy with this one!

But my girlfriend and I didn’t get to enjoy this time for long…

The pandemic starts…

In the second week of March, the Coronavirus started to spread quickly. Yet, I only journaled about it on the 12th. This journal entry was quite interesting to re-read, as it first hits me here that this pandemic is going to hit hard. It didn’t impact my happiness though, as I still rated my happiness with an 8.

It’s happening. The world is collapsing.

20% of my (invested) savings have evaporated, and it seems to continue every day. Luckily, I’m smart enough to weather this out (or at least, I hope lol). I’m not that bugged by it yet, it’s just that I find it incredibly fascinating and interesting. This is the biggest global “event” that I get to witness first hand, and it’s all unfolding right in front of me, like some kind of movie.

What is happening right now?

  • 1,000 people have been tested positively in the Netherlands
  • At least 10 people have died in the Netherlands
  • Flights from risky countries are canceled (Italy, China, Spain, etc)
  • Some countries are going in preventive lockdown (Czech Republic)
  • Everyone is asked to work from home (that includes me) for at least the next 2 weeks
  • All events with >100 participants are canceled (really sucks for those who have a wedding planned…)
  • All soccer matches are canceled
  • Schools and universities are closing one by one

This is mostly just in the Netherlands, which is so far not even that pro-active about this whole situation. Belgium is already way ahead of us with their measures.

It’s just bizarre. Fascinating, interesting and bizarre, what’s happening right now in such a short time. The world is collapsing, but I hope that the measures are enough to stop this from spreading. I’d like to think it’s enough, and that the peak will be behind us in a week or two.

Anyway, today was a pretty good day. Being the good boy that I am, I worked from home and took it easy. Everything at work is under control, so I get to take it easy right now. Went outside to the local skatepark for a short skating session, which was awesome.

Pretty soon, the government banned all social gatherings, closed restaurants and cafes and shut down the schools. The rest is history.

Here’s the last journal entry that I’ll share. It’s funny to read how quickly my life has changed as a result of this pandemic. I wrote the following on the 17th, which I rated with a 7.75 on a scale from 1 to 10.

Another fine day, or at least: so I thought.

Woke up around 07:30 and started working (from home). I was trapped in Skype sessions all morning and afternoon, so it was difficult to actually get some work done. Ah well, it’s not too busy at the moment, so I’m not bothered. Thank God.

I also spoke to my manager about my resignation. I initially said I would leave the company in May. Then, after the stressful period a couple of weeks ago, I said I was gonna leave ASAP (that would be end of April). But then this pandemic hit, and now my plans are shuffled again… So I’ve asked about potentially staying longer again, and it was luckily no problem. Good to know.

I went to the local skatepark again, for an hour-long skating session amidst the screaming scooter kids and the bored parents. It was fun again, but after a while, I started to feel a “fever-y sensation” so went back. The rest of the evening was relaxing: cooked dinner, watched Game of Thrones, and went for a long walk outside again. My girlfriend and I also did some ab exercises. We reckon this is a good opportunity to work on our body in other ways, with this pandemic going on and everything.

But, here’s the kicker: it’s already 3:00 at night and I can’t fall asleep. I feel sick, have a light fever and can’t stop coughing for the life of me. Do I have this fucking virus? I can’t sleep due to this constant coughing, and I’m only just starting to feel worse. I’m just gonna here on the couch with my laptop and watch Better Call Saul until I fall asleep…

I eventually fell asleep at 05:30. Needless to say, I called in sick the next day. Was it the Coronavirus? Maybe yes, maybe no (probably not), but I’ll never know. I actually hope it was the virus since that would mean I’m a little more immune by now.

Let’s see how this impacted my happiness factors!

Positive happiness factors

Here are the positive happiness factors that I tracked this month.

Since I’m quite the introvert, this semi-lockdown situation that we’re all in doesn’t actually impact my happiness all that much. I still get to enjoy a lot of the things I normally do:

  • Playing guitar
  • Running and skateboarding (we’re still allowed outside in the Netherlands, provided that we keep 1,5m distance from one another)
  • Playing videogames (Call of Duty Warzone has officially replaced Battlefield Firestorm as my go-to game)
  • Relaxing with my girlfriend (we finished Game of Thrones on the last day of the month!)
  • Working on this website

I also noticed some other funny things:

  • I don’t have to commute anymore!

Due to the work-from-home instructions, I don’t have to spend 2 hours anymore commuting to the office every day. I’m actually really grateful for this, since commuting rarely has a positive influence on my happiness.

  • I get to sleep more!

I’m not as tired as I normally am. Tiredness is rarely affecting my happiness these days, ever since the Coronavirus hit the Netherlands. As a result, I feel well-rested and get plenty of sleep! Hurray!

  • I’m less stressed due to work!

Since the entire economy is crashing, my job is a little less stressful. Some projects are delayed, while some are completely canceled for now. Projects that would normally put me under stress due to ambitious deadlines et cetera. Thanks to the Coronavirus, I don’t feel stressed by these deadlines anymore!

(Sure, this one sucks for my employer, but I feel like I’m not paid nearly enough to really give a crap about this. Sue me!)

Having written this, I’ll probably collect some of my personal data on this. You know, I track my sleep every night, so I’ll probably get to see quite an interesting impact from this virus. The same goes for work, stress and expenses. Check back later for an analysis of how this virus is influencing my life from a quantified self point-of-view.

Negative happiness factors

Unfortunately, there are also some negative aspects of this virus (obviously). Here are the negative factors that influenced my happiness this month:

The tiredness and stress were mostly caused by the shitty first week at work in March.

The rest of the negative factors can be explained by the virus. Here’s how.

  • My girlfriend and I had planned a holiday to La Palma, a beautiful island in the Atlantic Ocean. CANCELED!

In hindsight, this is something that we should have seen coming.

But it still sucked to see our beautiful holiday plans go to the shredder.

We still had all these days off, that we still wanted to enjoy, so what did we do? We booked a small weekend getaway to a little cabin in the woods right here in the Netherlands.

  • Our escape weekend getaway was CANCELED!

One day after booking, we received an email that they decided to cancel all reservations. Again, we should have seen this one coming, but it still sucked.

But perhaps the biggest victim of this situation is my social life, if I can still call it that.

Social life? What social life?

Yeah… So my social life consists of:

  • Spending time with my girlfriend
  • Online meetings with my colleagues
  • Whatsapp
  • Playing the occasional online game with friends, when the stars and planets align and we’re all online at the same time (this happened twice in March)

That’s it. No more birthday parties, no more beers with friends, no more dinners with the family or in-laws.

Unfortunately, this situation is not going to change anytime soon. On the 12th of March, I wrote the following in my happiness journal:

I hope […] that the peak will be behind us in a week or two.

Ah, Hugo, you stupid innocent fool… If only you knew.

I now expect to be living the quarantine life for the next 2 months, maybe even longer. I better learn how to enjoy this life!

That’s it for another monthly update. I’m looking forward to seeing you back here again next month, where I hopefully get to share lots of happiness from the cozy quarantine life!

How was your March? What would you rate your happiness on a scale from 1 to 10 this past month? Let me know in the comments below!


Hugo Huijer

Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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