7th December 2020

From Netflix to jigsaws, what makes you smile?

Laura Thompson looks at different ways students have been finding happiness over lockdown and this first semester at university
From Netflix to jigsaws, what makes you smile?
Photo @ Lucca Di Virgilio

Everyone has something that makes them smile, even if for a moment. We all need a smile every now and then, especially with the strangest Christmas of our lifetimes not that long away.

These days, Covid-19 restrictions mean that traditional sources of happiness are in short supply. With our social lives tightly policed, we have had to be a little creative with how we find happiness.

But everyone is different. We all have our own special things that make us happy. Some of us have pets. Some of us have Netflix. Some of us have jigsaws with missing pieces which we try to finish anyway simply for something to do…

When I asked people what made them smile, I got a wider response than I ever could have ever expected!

In lockdown, students stressed the importance of simple pleasures. Some have had a group Christmas dinner and gotten riotously drunk. Others have played infantile pranks on their housemates and turned their room upside down. While others engaged in house traditions like Wii games or have religiously watched celebs chow down on dubious animal parts on I’m A Celebrity.

Even something as simple as spending time with friends came up as a source of happiness. Talking to people you get along with may seem like an obvious answer but we truly do not appreciate those little chats we have whether in person, with our housemates, or over the phone. 

Sometimes the simple pleasures are not enough and we look for happiness elsewhere. A first-year I spoke to set up a recording studio in her en-suite. With tier 3 restrictions in Manchester, there is now plenty of time to get practising on those new EPs.

We can always turn to the trusty world of music and TV to make us smile, but we all have our own taste. Whether you listen to McFly albums on repeat or have Star Wars movie marathons, music and television can often lift our moods.

One person I asked was particularly complimentary of the Channel 4 TV show, Travel Man with Richard Ayouade, which she described as  “wholesome, light-hearted and very funny and lets me forget about things I’m worried about”: exactly what we want and need sometimes. 

Of course, cat videos are a classic source of entertainment on the internet and a personal favourite of mine.

Many of us have turned to food and cooking. Recently, I was made aware of the joys that an elite Christmas cheese selection can bring to one’s life, and it is truly an awakening.

Baking and cooking, whether for yourself or for other people, can bring a smile to our face: though not all our food experiments may work out the first time. My first attempt at sourdough ended with some new breed of bread that would definitely not be stocked in any bakery. But, we learn from our mistakes. 

I personally am a fan of making latch hook pillowcases and planning future homes that I will likely never be able to afford, but I can dream.

Lockdown may have curbed our in-person social lives, but our online lives are blowing up. Zoom quizzes have been a stable in the lifestyle of the socially-distanced zoomer.

Whether you have been to a pub quiz or joined a new society and met people, we’ve still had some chances to make new friends and chat to old ones this year.

Lastly, there are those who take bringing a smile to other people one step further. The Barmy Angels are a group of wonderful people who leave little gifts across the UK for strangers to find.

Their mission is to share kindness with the world and judging by the heart-warming messages on their Facebook page, they are succeeding. With sweet notes and key chains found by strangers from Kent to Yorkshire to Lancashire, Barmy Angels are providing a wonderful service out of the goodness of their hearts to keep us all smiling when we’re feeling down.

With the holiday season upon us, even with our social lives extremely limited, we can still enjoy the little things in life and bring a smile to others around us.

Have a think, what makes you smile?

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