Berkeley Lab

Mental Health Awareness Month: The science-backed answer to how to be happy in quarantine

UC Riverside researchers who have studied people under quarantine in China say the best protection against COVID-19 stress is to participate in all-consuming activities.

In fact, finding the right activity could mean you experience the same well-being during the long quarantine as you would when not in quarantine, UC Riverside psychology researcher Kate Sweeny asserts.

Kate Sweeny library backdrop

“It’s a bold statement. But there are lots of reasons for this, and the data are compelling,” said Sweeny, a professor of psychology. “Flow seems to mitigate the negative effects of quarantine.”

“Flow” is the term researchers use to describe a state of complete immersion in an activity. Flow activities are so all-consuming that it’s difficult to think of anything else. People achieve flow variously by playing video games or using a foreign language app. Activities such as baking, woodworking, and jogging could qualify, depending on the level of challenge. Reading and watching TV, while enjoyable, aren’t flow activities.

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Kate Sweeny, psychology professor
Credit: UC Riverside