“This year has been full of many challenges.” That’s been the start to every commercial you’ve heard lately right before they try to sell you on something. You’ve heard it so many times it has probably lost all meaning. But look at that sentence again. This year HAS been full of MANY challenges. People have lost loved ones and jobs.
What often goes unmentioned are all the challenges the year has brought that has nothing to do with the pandemic. There are still normal bad times circulating around out there too. People who didn’t lose their job, still struggling to pay bills, pets passing away, friends moving to different parts of the country. Any one of these things could make your mental health suffer but sprinkle a little pandemic mayhem on top of that and you’ve got yourself a major national decline in happiness. Now I’m going to try and sell you on something too… finding the joy in this year.
In the past, moments of joy seemed more obvious. A promotion. A concert. A vacation. In a time when
those obvious moments of joy are as rare as finding a pearl in an oyster that washes up on the beach, you quite literally have to pursue happiness.
Easier said than done, right? How can pursue anything when you aren’t really supposed to go anywhere. You probably won’t like the answer… You try harder.
The silver lining, blah blah blah. But it’s real. Remember without pain there would be no compassion. Which means in a world of pain there is compassion to be found. People like to say that we are all in the same boat right now, but it’s just not true. An essential worker isn’t in the same boat as someone unemployed. Someone high risk isn’t in the same boat as someone healthy. Those who are so depressed they can’t move are not in the same boat as the person that can still get up and do something fun every weekend. We need to normalize that.
When you normalize that we aren’t all in the same situation right now – but it’s still hard for everyone – you can start to accept that there are multiple roads to find that joy, that spark, that is missing from your life. There is no 1, 2, 3 guide but that’s a good thing. Why? Because it no longer limits your possibilities to 1, 2, 3.
You’re probably disappointed to find out this article isn’t going to tell you exactly how to find joy. Bear with me.
Most of us have quite of bit of downtime this year. Instead of rewatching Grey’s Anatomy for the 20th time, use that time to do some self reflection. I’d love to tell you what will make you happy but I don’t know you. And maybe this year, you don’t know you. You need to find yourself and the best way to do that is be with yourself a bit. 2020 might have overdone that alone time a little but it’s the biggest neon sign slapping you in the face that you’ve probably missed.
We have been conditioned to stay where we are comfortable. But no one has ever found out something new about themselves in their comfort zone. And think back… those highest moments of joy in your life have existed outside of that comfort zone. This year is UNCOMFORTABLE to say the least. But hey, that means you are that much closer to finding some joy.
Something I have found joy in this year is working on self care. Before I always felt selfish to do things for myself or that by spending time doing that, I would be sacrificing time I could be using for work or helping others. What’s amazing is that it’s not true. It’s this wall we have put up in our heads. We are conditioned to think self care is being lazy or a luxury you can’t afford. Sometimes it’s because you see people that only seem to do self care and don’t care about others and you think, “I don’t want to be that person!” But doing something for yourself isn’t an all or nothing thing. It’s absolutely something you can incorporate in incremental amounts. The amazing thing is as I started taking 15 minutes here and there to take care of myself, I had more to give to everything else! It restored my energy and flow by bringing a healthy balance to my life that I didn’t even realize I was craving. Sometimes it’s a face mask, sometimes it’s an extra session of yoga in the afternoon and sometimes it’s just a nap! But doing those things brought joy to my life that then spilled over to my work and personal relationships. Everybody likes someone that isn’t stressed and wound up. It’s a win-win.
Remember how I said you have to try harder to find the joy this year? Sometimes trying harder isn’t actually doing something hard. It’s slowing down and accepting those moments of slowing down. America is the worst for always being on the go. No vacation time, longer work days, and less pay. When you slow down and stop this mentality of “I’m behind,” you notice things that passed you by before. As corny as it sounds, it is the small things that can bring the biggest joys. Before changing my mindset, my dog dropping a tennis ball in front of me and watting my leg with his paw while I tried to work annoyed my to no end. Now, I take the time to play with him for a couple minutes. I notice the way he looks at me, how prances to get the ball, the cute noises he makes because he is having fun. The joy.
In other cases, trying harder really is trying harder. It’s forcing yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do. For me, this was forcing myself to try at-home work outs. I HATED them before. I was never motivated because I didn’t feel like I need to impress anyone when I’m alone in my living room. But this year, I got pregnant. DURING A PANDEMIC. Pregnancy in itself does bring joy, I know, but doing this in a pandemic has its own s
et of challenges. When you’re pregnant you’re considered high risk. Throw in my less-than adequate lungs from years of asthma and I turn into someone
that really needs to be mindful of my exposure. This meant, even during the period that gyms were/are open that I shouldn’t be going as long as our case numbers are so high. But it also means that I shouldn’t stop working out because not only is it good for me to stay active but it helps the baby too. So I had to try something I previously sh*tted on.
After stepping outside my comfort zone and trying this new program, I’ve actually fallen in love with it. There are amazing prenatal workouts that make me drenched in sweat, prepare my body for birth and make me feel connected to the baby growing inside me. Not to mention I’ve seen some great results. While I’m packing on the pounds in my belly, I am seeing the definition come back in my legs and my arms are becoming more shredding and ready to carry a baby around all the time.
This year really has been full of many challenges, but it’s also been filled with so much joy. Not the same type of joy as year’s past but still pure joy. For the last half of the year, I hope you pursue joy. And not just pursue it. I hope you find it.