This year of facing restrictions and limitations to the activities we enjoy most certainly doesn’t foster an atmosphere of joy.
A new year is the start of a new beginning and all the hopes and dreams for what 365 days could bring. How do we find joy in the 2021 rotation around the sun when it is considered anything but “normal”?
Joy can be an elusive word for even the happiest of people. Sometimes it gets tossed around with grateful or thankful but really they are two separate mindsets.
You can still be thankful for a plate of a healthy salad to nourish your body — but does leafy spinach really bring you as much pleasure as, say, a plate of loaded French fries?
Most of the time the answer would be no unless you are stellar at a good diet.
Does joy equal being thankful, not necessarily. Your body needs food to survive but it doesn’t need a gourmet meal or a decadent treat to fulfill it’s daily nutritional intake. However, cooking a meal with your loved ones or presenting a meal that you’ve worked half a day on may offer you a feeling of joy. Sometimes, after I’ve worked on a dish for so long I rarely even take a bite but instead revel in the reaction from those eating it.
The idea is that simple things can bring your joy. It’s important to add these small doses of joy where they can go. Maybe you are dieting so can’t consume the unnecessary calories but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great new recipes to try that could be just as good as those fries — ultimately it provides a new pleasure of deliciousness without the guilt associated.
What if you could think of joy as walking with a smile on your face? What if joy was that moment when you see the sun or even the clouds and you think to yourself “what will my day bring?” and the excitement of profound hope of everything good washes over you?
How do we get to that place? The place where our cynical side vanishes and only an elated side remains. Well there is no perfect road map but maybe I can provide a few ways to get there.
Write, record or draw your thoughts. Get the bad thoughts out and make way for new good ones. Holding onto negative feelings takes up valuable space in our feelings “bank”.
How can we expect to find the hidden joy and happiness if we’re weighed down by the burden of negativity? Kelsy Nimmo provided a great article over the holidays about how to grieve disappointments from 2020. We all know NOTHING went according to plan and it’s okay to let yourself grieve those thoughts, but the important thing is to release those thoughts in some way.
Taking a moment to reflect on how you felt each day can give closure to some negative things that happened that day. On the other hand, reflecting on something that made you feel good might provide you some insight into what gives you joy and then you can duplicate that action again and again. Taking a moment to understand how certain events impacted you can help you learn yourself better but only if you take the time to reflect.
You may have heard of the practice of meditating before. Clearing your mind and priming it for the day ahead or a challenging obstacle with positive messages is an easy way to find the joy in even a crazy schedule.
I call this a practice because most of the time it does take practice to learn how to meditate.
Sometimes when we find ourselves in solitude our mind tries to fill the void with a bunch of random things. Usually my mind trails off to my to-do list and what I need to add to my grocery list or remembering that the laundry needs to get put in the dryer.
I find following a guided meditation is one of the best options to keep me on track. Thankfully there are more services than ever, and mostly free, that can help guide you.
Need some help on where to look? There is guided meditation everywhere!
- There are apps that can teach you breathing exercises and help you focus on your breath which is considered a form of meditation.
- A good amount of yoga practices provide moments to focus on inhaling and exhaling in a calm meditative state while also clearing your mind.
- My Fitbit even offers a quick guide to breathing if I find myself in a frenzy.
- YouTube has many free recordings and you can even subscribe to a certain instructor that you like. If you don’t visit YouTube often, you can get notified if someone you subscribe to offers a new episode.
I strongly encourage you to try out some different “leaders” until you find the right fit for you. Some instructors might suit you better than others or eventually you might need to change depending on how you’ve progressed in your practice.
There are also books if you do better with learning on your own. I’ve found a great array of books available at the library so the investment to you can be very small but offer a profound difference.
The main goal of meditation is to find a way to provide a calming mindset so you can weigh out the negative obstacles with ones that are positive.
3. Self Care
This is a broader base as it is highly personalized.
If you are one that enjoys a good massage then it’s a good option, but if you don’t like being touched then that isn’t going to bring you joy.
If you enjoy a walk in the woods and hearing birds singing or leaves rustling, then making time for a hike would benefit you. However, if you hate nature or hate bugs then a hike might not be the best idea.
Maybe it’s as simple as getting a new book from the library or a new game you like. Things that take us away from our TVs and screens often feel fulfilling and nourishing to us — which is great self-care.
The point is to find something that works for you and make the time to do it.
Life can be busy and hectic but if we make time for all little things here and there, why don’t we take the time for our minds to reset?
We can make time for obligations and things for others but what makes self-care not an obligation? It should be! We see it as optional and that’s problematic.
Set a date on your calendar and make it a recurrence on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis so the time gets set aside. It doesn’t have to take an entire day but do something for yourself often. It doesn’t have to cost money or require an elaborate set up, just find a way to make it happen.
4. Create Purpose
Sometimes finding purpose can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Purpose is as simple as something you like to do or have a passion for — even if you aren’t an expert.
For example, I like to volunteer my time to nonprofits. (The organizations I work with vary as my life changes or the organization needs change. Since I’m now a mother, I give my time to the Parent Teacher League or I find passion with children’s based programs.) Every Christmas season, I ring the bell at the red kettle. Sometimes the weather makes it tough but seeing the good nature of everyone stopping in their rush to give their change or some dollar bills readys my heart for what I want the season to really be about.
You don’t have to volunteer to find your purpose. There is a purpose in anything as long as it gives you a sense of what you can contribute. There is a Facebook group for just about any hobby, skill, or trade known to man.
Join a group or community that matches your purpose and explore it. Talk about model railroads, get ideas from Pinterest of new crafts or recipes to try, or learn a foreign language.
The possibilities to find people with similar interests and connect with them virtually are endless due to the pandemic. It’s easier than ever to find a community outside of your town, state, or even country.
Connection can go in different directions. You can connect internally and externally.
I am introverted so the idea of being around people on a constant basis is not appealing. If I go to a party (or nowadays a Zoom call), afterwards my tank of socializing runs empty. As much as it may drain my levels, I find it necessary to still have that time with others to feel that connection and laugh and talk and have some fun.
I tend to be so excited to make plans and then the time comes and I moan and groan about going but always have a good time.
That is the nature of most adults, unfortunately.
We let all of our responsibilities outweigh our schedule and then when it’s time for fun we’d rather sleep or sit around in our PJs.
Breaking this pajama TV pattern can be hard — but it has to be done in order to find purpose and create meaning. There are so many options for how to find purpose without TV — you just have to commit.
Make the time! Make the plans! Follow through with the social engagements and you’ll be better overall.
Outside of the external connections is the internal connection. Internal connection means listening to your body and mind and what you need.
I mentioned in a previous paragraph about following through with your social engagements but there are also times where solace and stillness can make a huge difference in how you feel.
There is no better person that can provide a meter to say when you’ve reached the right level for either part of yourself but that is why internal connection is so important.
Listening to your body when it’s saying “that’s enough, let’s rest” and taking its guidance to enjoy that movie on the couch or sleeping in. In fact, it doesn’t require much experience to establish this internal connection, “just be” with your thoughts and emotions.
If you are absolutely dreading a social engagement after a tumultuous time then it’s okay to take some time to yourself. Just make sure you aren’t using this as a constant excuse to avoid social engagements. We are social beings and need both aspects of life to thoroughly enjoy what they both offer to our psyche.
Some of these options might work for you and some might not. That is the beauty of our individual personalities, we don’t all enjoy or excel at the same thing.
Take this list and adapt it to make it your own. Find out what works for you and exploit it to its fullest potential. If it stops working for you then find another way. There are plenty of ways outside of this list that could work for you.
The most important thing is to keep trying and when you need help along the way Kalamazoo Therapy Group is here to help.