Happy in Maastricht. Even in a time of corona.

Maastricht is a city that has everything you need to feel happy. It has beautiful green hills, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the best culinary hotspots, great shops, and a relaxed mentality that encourages you to slow down and take it easy. It therefore comes as no surprise that so many tourists find their way to this wonderful place. But that's all a little different now, and now the city belongs to the residents alone. Unfortunately, it's not the city at its best with its vibrant events and bustling streets, but it's still wonderful to have the city to ourselves for a little while. But we do hope that it is only for a very little while and that this crisis quickly comes to an end, especially for those directly or indirectly affected by coronavirus.

Peace and quiet in Maastricht

The best way to enjoy this unique peace and quiet in the city is to just get out there, strolling over the deserted streets with their characteristic cobblestones or staring out over the Meuse to gain a unique sense of Maastricht. Unfortunately, that's not the safest thing to do at the moment. Of course, going for a run or cycling nice and early and at a distance through the Jekerdal district is allowed and can really cheer you up. But returning home could really dampen your mood. It might feel like the walls are closing in on you or you might be missing a loved one or a close friend.

So, how can you stay happy in our beautiful city of Maastricht, despite these difficult times?

Help each other

You don't need to search far for a solution: it's solidarity.

This works as follows: positive psychology has shown that social interaction scores highly in the top ten of factors leading to happiness. But online social interaction, unfortunately, cannot replace live contact. It eventually makes us even more unhappy, because you are unable to truly feel that connection with others. So, we need to apply other means of making that connection. One of these ways is altruism, doing something selfless for others. Altruism even doubles up the happiness, as you not only make someone else happy but also yourself.

This is something that many people experienced early on in the lockdown, when the first initiatives for helping others were quickly set up. In Maastricht, medical students started the Crew against Corona to help others in various ways, while others provided help by being a friendly voice on the phone for the elderly or offering to do groceries for neighbours who have trouble getting around.

Initiatives to support restaurants and cafés and SMEs followed quickly. Because many people join these initiatives, share them, and support them, a feeling of solidarity is created, a feeling of being connected to others, which helps us to fill the emptiness of this time a little.

Initiatives in Maastricht

Are you starting to become a little restless? Do phrases such as ‘belonging’ and ‘feeling connected’ start to sound incredibly attractive after weeks of being stuck at home? And would you like to lend a helping hand? Then this is the moment to find out more about one of the existing initiatives in Maastricht.

For example, there is the #supportyourlocal initiative that is being rolled out across the world, including Maastricht. You can help local businesses by ordering some of your favourite Maastricht delicacies, such as a tasty beer from Hoppy Brothers or a pastry from Patisserie Royal. Check the Facebook page of Support your Local and support one of the local restaurants or cafés. Want to bet that it'll make you feel better?

But there is more... Take a look at the collaboration between Maltezer and Café de Zwaan or that between Restaurant Ut Lieuwke and Chi Kookt.

Finally, there is Fab's Fun Package, which is one of my favourites. This is another one of those great initiatives that ensures that fourteen local businesses can continue operating. When you order your package here, you support one of the participating businesses and a part of the proceeds goes to the ‘Met je hart voor eenzame ouderen’ (heart for lonely elderly people) foundation. This is guaranteed to make you feel happy.

But that’s not all... It's not only helping others that creates a sense of connection, but this is also something you feel by working together with others to achieve a goal. Room Escape and Escape Adventures Maastricht prove that you can even do this at a distance. Together with seventeen other Escape Rooms in the Netherlands, they have created a free online game for all of you: ‘de Verloren Herinnering’ (the lost memory). This is the best way to pretend, just for a little while, that we aren't separated from one another. This is guaranteed to be a feel-good experience when you achieve the objective together with your friends, while giving your ego a boost too. Plenty to give you renewed energy to handle a few more days on your own.

What can you do?

If we haven't given you enough ideas yet and you're still looking for something else, you can always start your own initiative. Or you can start simply by doing one good deed per week. Give your grandmother an extra call, send your elderly neighbour an encouraging card, or sing a song from your balcony to all those who want to listen. We're not in this alone Maastricht. We're in this together. And, as soon as you realize this, you'll feel a lot better.

Help each other and we hope to see everyone again soon, with a glass of wine along the Meuse.

This article was written by Josje Smeets, happiness psychologist and owner of HelloBetty.nl. ‘As a happiness psychologist I know and read a lot about happiness. It is my goal to let everyone know that happiness can partially be created.’