Responding to

"If you don't like something change it;
if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."

Mary Engelbreit
What makes us happy?

It's a big question, especially these days. There have been untold books and articles written on the subject for years. Self-help gurus, religious leaders, and others offer seminars and trainings on happiness. Researchers have studied it. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion. And the pandemic has brought even more "experts" out of the woodwork.

To talk about happiness, we first probably want to define it since it can look and feel like different things to different people. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a positive psychology researcher who wrote a book on the subject, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” But happiness is about more than just feeling good. Researchers have found that happiness actually improves other aspects of our lives. It's good for our health. Happy people are less likely to get sick and they tend to live longer than people who are, well, unhappy. It's also good for our relationships. Happy people make more money and are more productive at work and they tend to be more generous and better able to cope with stress and trauma. And finally, happy people are more creative and better able to see "the big picture" in most situations.

Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, believes that what makes people happiest is personal connections. “One of the most shocking [things] for me is a study looking at how simple interactions with strangers positively affect your well-being,” adding that, even for introverts, “a simple chat with a stranger can make people feel great.”

And therein lies the rub. The pandemic has interrupted all of our social interactions. So the very thing that makes people happiest is the very thing we've been told to avoid.

Dr. Santos, who offers an online class on creating improved mental health (free of charge during the pandemic), suggests that our increased reliance on technology to maintain contact can actually have a detrimental effect on our emotional well-being. Too much reliance on competing technological connections (for example, checking e-mail during a virtual meeting), disrupts the already tenuous social connections we're working so hard to maintain. One thing she suggests is turning off our cell phone or other electronic devices in order to focus on one thing at a time. Another is to join meetings early to give an opportunity for folks to connect. For example, she logs into her classes early to give students an opportunity to "hang out and chat," and to offer an opportunity for a bit of unstructured social connection.
COVID is clearly wreaking havoc on people's well-being. Dr. Santos points out, "The message I’ve seen from the current research is that COVID’s not great for well-being; symptoms of depression and symptoms of anxiety tend to be going up. And those are systematically worse in more vulnerable populations." 

So how does she suggest we can achieve happiness in our current chaotic world? "Try not to run away from our negative emotions. Uncertainty, fear, frustration, anger, jealousy — all of those negative emotions — they’re not going away. You need to give them space. You don’t need to shut off negative emotions — those are real. You would need to shut COVID off to shut those down right now. But you can deal with them and accept them and work with them, given that that’s our situation."

Happiness can be pretty elusive right now. Every day seems to bring some new wrinkle to our world that brings with it new concerns and stress and requires more mental adjustment. Keeping connections with our friends, family and community, however we manage to do that, seems to be an important key to finding a bit of mental balance and feeling less alone. Whether it's checking in with friends or simply saying thank you to the grocery store attendant, everything helps.

I remain deeply grateful for all that you do to keep yourself and the entire Kitchen Angels family safe and healthy.

Thank you.
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.
CARES Act Funds Available to Help Folks Struggling with Bills

Kitchen Angels is part of a network of social service organizations helping to distribute Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act 
funds recently received by the City of Santa Fe.

Funds can be used to help pay for up to three months of back-due rent, utilities, transportation costs, and other expenses that have resulted from COVID-19. For example, people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and who have fallen behind on their rent may be eligible for assistance. As one applicant recently wrote in his statement of need, "Then COVID hit and literally years worth of planning went out the window."

Thus far, the applications received by Kitchen Angels have focused on rent assistance with several of the applicants having already received eviction notices.

Funding is available through December 30, 2020. For more information, call Janette at (505) 471-7780 or go the program's website.
The Rules Are Changing . . . Again

Some new public health rules took effect last Friday in an effort to curb the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

  1. Any food or drink establishment serving alcohol must close at 10:00 p.m. each night. This is something that other states, including Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, are doing.
  2. Maximum hotel occupancy restrictions are reduced to 60 percent for places of lodging that have completed the state's Safe Certified Training Program and to 25 percent for hotels that have not completed the training program – a reduction of maximum occupancy from 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
  3. Individuals traveling into the state from “higher-risk states,” those with a test positivity rate exceeding five percent or higher than 80 per 100,000 residents, must quarantine for no less than 14 days. Here's the link to higher-risk states.
  4. Gatherings of more than five individuals are once again prohibited. “Mass gatherings” are any public or private gathering, organized event, ceremony, parade, organized amateur contact sport, or other grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor or outdoor space. 

Here's some useful information on the relative risks associated with various activities.