Under non-pandemic circumstances, there are countless factors that could impact stress, quality of life, and the feeling of joy. However, living through a pandemic presents its own additional set of challenges, many of which have the potential to impact both mental and physical health–not to mention influence purchases aimed at boosting one’s mood and feeling better equipped to make it through the day. 

To understand the current state of joy and “splurge” purchases, CivicScience looked at data from  more than 100,000 U.S. adults about their experience of joy from the past six months. As the data show, overall joy has plummeted since February of this year. March and April saw consecutive declines in joy, which rebounded in May–around the same time many states were beginning to re-open–before dropping again in June.  

At the same time, lack of joy has increased and reached a similar spike last month. That said, in the past several weeks, joy has shown some signs of a comeback, suggesting that upward spikes could be possible in the future. 

What Brings Joy? 

There is a strong correlation between how different consumers splurge and how much joy they feel, and how this has all changed from pre-pandemic levels. In February and March, the top two categories for go-to splurges that correlated with the most joy were luxury products and event tickets.

However, in light of continued closures and social distancing measures, much of that has changed. In June and July, luxury products and event tickets–formerly the most joy-bringing splurges — had taken the hardest hit on the joy felt by their respondents. Pampering, while still seeing declined joy among its respondent base, saw the lowest decline compared to the others. This could, in part, have to do with the turn to more self care at home, or some reopening of spas and salons in some areas. 

Going Back to Normal

It’s worth noting that one of the largest factors for increasing joy is returning to some sense of normalcy. As the data show, those who have returned to normal activities–whether they’ve since taken a step back or not–have felt the strongest sense of joy in the last several weeks. Those who have remained quarantined are experiencing less joy as of late.

Needless to say, joy has taken an extremely hard hit over the past six months, as U.S. adults have sought to navigate this new way of life. However, recent spikes in joy suggest that the yo-yo trajectory of joy is far from over. Certain splurges–such as pampering–have, in fact, weathered the uncertainty better than others in terms of its recipient’s feelings of joy. And resuming normal day-to-day activities could play a substantial role in feeling more joyful, overall.