Top

From the Editor: The Transition Is Here

Getty/Ridofranz

S&H Editor-in-Chief Ben Nussbaum reflects on happiness and transition as the world enters into a new normal.

The transition is here, finally.

As I write this the most vulnerable have gotten both their shots and the rollout is almost at the stage where anyone can schedule a poke in any state.

I’m excited about socializing with the outside world again and hanging out with friends I haven’t seen in over a year. A long-anticipated family trip to New England might finally make it onto our schedule. I’ll have a quieter house
to work in. Maybe I’ll join a gym and try to lose some COVID weight.

But for the most part, after the joy-filled return to normal, life will go on the same as it does now and did before. Social scientists discovered long ago that happiness is mostly static. A major unexpected positive or negative event changes our happiness, but only for a little bit. Then we’re back at our base level. Win the lottery? Live it up for a week, but soon you’ll end up with about the same amount of joys, sorrows, grievances, and annoyances as you had before you struck it rich. They might be different joys and sorrows. But your emotional sine wave ends up in more or less the same place.

That’s one reason it’s important to focus on permanent, lasting change in your own psyche, your own framing of the world.

Victor Parachin offers seven habits that can lead to awakening (page 24). Not surprisingly, gratitude is one of them. With COVID quarantines ending, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Kathryn Drury Wagner has advice for recovering from burnout (page 34). We’re probably all experiencing burnout, albeit in different ways. One piece of advice she shares: Be clear on what you need more of in your life and what you need less of. This is a great time to reorganize your priorities and make sure that you are rejecting anything you can reject that doesn’t serve you. On that topic, Kathryn also has a story on quitting (page 48). Give it a read and think about what you might need to walk away from.

It’s also a great time to think about self-compassion. As you begin to transition into your new post-COVID identity, take it easy on yourself. It’s the right thing to do—and self-compassion offers lasting benefits. I hope you enjoy our interview (page 54) with Dr. Kristin Neff, who has built a career on studying self-compassion.

Our guest columnist, the wonderful Tracee Stanley, offers advice on moments of transition (page 78). Each of her eight tips has special weight as we head back into the world.

I’m hoping you have a wonderful transition.