The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our lives. It has fundamentally changed the way we live, dress, work and interact with each other.
It has also forced us to hit the reset button and question what makes us truly happy.
To get a better picture of how the pandemic has shifted the South African psyche, the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) recently conducted a survey among close to 700 people of various ages and backgrounds across the country.
According to the poll, the top five pursuits that bring South Africans the most joy in 2021 are:
1. visiting with close friends and family (65%),
2. sipping a soothing cup of tea (56%),
3. being in nature (53%),
4. lending a helping hand to someone in need (39%),
5. a good night’s rest and laughing out loud (tied at 29%).
Others cited exercise (23%), reading a good book (22%), spending time with a furry friend (20%) and indulging in a sweet treat (18%) as their “happy place”.
Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SARC says that based on the results from the poll, it is evident that the disruption of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has changed how people talk about and conceptualise happiness.
“In many ways the pandemic has forced us to take a step back and reconsider the value we place on the simpler, more meaningful things in life.”
For those who find contentment in a cup of tea, 84% claimed Rooibos tea as their “happy tea”.
Seven in ten said drinking tea helps them to relax, while more than a third remarked that the daily ritual helps them to reflect and be happy in the moment.
Du Toit says mindfulness and tea go hand-in-hand.
“For many, a morning or evening cup of tea is their form of meditation. It sets the tone for the day ahead or helps them to unwind after a stressful day.”
Tea meditations are an ancient practice, which have been used over millennia to achieve mindful appreciation. Du Toit explains how it is practised:
“As you sip your tea slowly, focus on bringing the mind into the present, while drawing peace and quiet into the moment. Bring your awareness into the here and now and align yourself into your day. Allow your thoughts to come and go without holding on to them. This is a wonderful way to stop overwhelming thoughts from taking over and to prepare the mind for the day’s challenges that lie ahead.”
She says even the act of brewing tea helps the mind to focus on the present. “Brewing tea demands our attention, which brings us into the present moment. As you brew your tea according to your individual preference for taste, it should serve as a reminder that you can craft only what you can control in life and to let go of what you can’t, in order to appreciate what you do have.”
After living through a pandemic for a year, where public health has been at the forefront of people’s minds, it comes as no surprise that the majority (96%) of respondents agreed that “happiness” has become more about well-being than pleasure-seeking. Nine out of ten said they could do with more comfort in 2021 with many admitting that last year was tough on them mentally.
“2020 was one of the most difficult years many of us have had to face and in times of crisis, we turn to comfort and want to spend our time and energy on doing things which leave us feeling content and happy.
“Tea ticks many of these boxes. Rooibos tea being rich in antioxidants and possessing anti-inflammatory properties is as good for the heart as it is for the soul. Aside from its inherent health benefits and great taste, drinking tea is also associated with feelings of warmth and comfort, which provides reassurance in difficult times – something we need now more than ever,” remarks du Toit.
Apart from anecdotal evidence, there’s also scientific proof that regular tea-drinking can reduce your risk of depression by 31%. Eleven studies involving 22 817 people showed that tea consumption may act as an independent protective factor for depression and that the more you drink it, the less chance you have of becoming depressive.
The results from the poll were released this week in the lead up to International Day of Happiness (Saturday, 20 March) to help boost public morale during the pandemic.
According to the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), depression and anxiety has worsened during the pandemic with call volumes to their helpline having more than doubled in the last year. The SARC’s poll reflects the same, with only 29% of respondents claiming to be truly happy.