It has been over a year since our whole world turned upside down due to COVID-19. For some, it meant spending more time with loved ones and adapting to unanticipated changes like working from home. For others, it may have brought more difficult circumstances, like losing a loved one or furloughs and job loss. Now, with the promise of things opening back up, new worries and anxieties have manifested around what the new “normal” will look like.
We are beginning to come out the other side. Although it might look different from how we remembered it before we went into our COVID hibernation, our love for our family, friends, and joy in reconnection remained the same. As we transition into spring, the biggest gift we can give ourselves is grace and intentional moments of joy. This is a time to be gentle with ourselves, a time to nurture, and a time to grow. Whatever joy means to you, it can be harnessed in surprisingly simple ways, even through difficult times. Here are some tips on how you can cultivate joy not only for yourself but for the world around you.
Finding joy does not take immense amounts of effort. Instead, look for the small things that bring you joy. While that thing may seem insignificant to others, all that matters is the significance it has to you. Dr. Chopra says, “If something is making you feel good, or brings you joy, or gives you a little laugh, or whatever it is, as long as it’s not harming you or anyone else, please just do more of it now. If it’s pouring a cup of tea in your favorite mug, dancing to music for 30 seconds, or whatever it is, if anything brings you joy, just give it to yourself more. This is actually part of survival.”
Stop Comparing Yourself
Comparison is the ultimate thief of joy. It is hard to avoid, especially in today’s world where social streams are dominated by highly visible and social people. It is easy to evaluate how fit we are in comparison to the fittest person we know, or how smart we are compared to the smartest person we know. The ways we make comparisons may give us a biased account of our skills and experiences. It is important to recognize that you’re most likely using an unrealistic target when comparing yourself. Instead, try focusing on the positives: how much skill you have improved over time, qualities you love about yourself, and how others might view you as a role model.
Make Self-Care an Everyday Part of Your Routine
The term self-care gets thrown around a lot and can mean many different things to different people. It is a lot easier said than done to unplug and give yourself a moment of respite and relaxation, but carving out dedicated time in your day to do something that brings you joy will have huge benefits to your overall wellbeing. Whether it is a quick walk around the neighborhood or something as simple as enjoying your morning cup of coffee on the patio, be intentional about your “me time” and try not to stress about the miscellaneous.
Schedule Time to Worry
Negative thoughts and emotions are a normal part of the human experience but can often lead to worry spiraling. Dealing with spiraling thoughts can make us feel overwhelmed, powerless, and can ultimately prevent us from feeling joyful. One way to cope with these negative thoughts is to schedule time into your day to worry, says psychotherapist Lia Avellino. Rather than trying to push those thoughts away, creating space to ruminate on those negative thoughts can help set boundaries around your intentional self-care or relaxation time.
It is important to cultivate joy in your own life, but it is equally important to cultivate joy for others. There is a common phrase, “it’s better to give than to receive.” Studies show that doing good for others has a positive effect on our mental health. Acts of kindness go a long way and leads to higher levels of wellbeing and positive emotions. While the suffering in the world around us may seem overwhelming, it is also an opportunity to give back. One act of kindness sparks another, and no act of gratitude is too small or insignificant and will ultimately make the world we live in a better place.
One way to simultaneously cultivate joy in your own life and others is to remind yourself of your connectedness. This will look different for everyone. For some, it may be revisiting and sharing old memories by looking through home videos and photos with family members. For others, it may be reaching out to old friends and checking in on those we haven’t spoken to in a while. It can even be something as simple as writing thoughtful letters to your neighbors, or dropping off baked goods or treats in your community. Whatever it is you choose to do, embrace the human experience and find joy in the connection we all have with one another.
Unleash Your Inner Child
As we get older, we tend to lose sight of our inner child. This affects our ability to let go, be silly, and have fun. Engaging your youthful spirit is key to finding joy. Have a dance party around your home, run around in the rain, or make a pillow fort like we did as kids. Unleashing our inner child allows us to let go of any rigidness and experience the pure bliss that comes from the youthful spirit.
Appreciate the Little Things in Life
It could be the way the sun shines through that tree outside your house, or the laughter of your child, or the feeling of grass under your feet. Whatever it is, it’s important now to take this time to find joy and hopefulness in the little things. Try finding joy in unexpected moments each day, and let yourself be present in those simple moments of bliss once again. There is a semblance of normal on the horizon, and as the weather warms up and we begin to slowly pick up the parts of our “normal” lives and find a way to put them together like pieces of a new puzzle, we encourage you to rediscover what brings you joy through the smallest things.
Accept Joy for What It Is
Joy has a mysterious way of making itself at home, even through pain and sorrow. It does not always depend on ‘good’ circumstances but can instead be felt deeply through our connectedness with others and can be found in the most surprising places. Joy is whatever you want it to be for yourself. What’s important is that you take the time to find that joy for yourself and to cultivate joy in others through humor, appreciation, listening, and connecting.
If you are in a crisis, please call us at 303-425-0300 or by calling the crisis line at 844-493-8255. The 24/7 crisis walk-in center and withdrawal management program is open at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.