This pandemic can be overwhelming. This winter feels like the last leg of a long run. We’re tired, tempted to give up, and yet we know how much better we’ll feel if we just stick to it and finish.
Many of us won’t be seeing family this holiday, and while we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is raging at an all time high. The weight of this year, of financial uncertainty, and the sheer collective grief from lives and jobs lost…. It’s a lot to process, especially in the darkest part of the winter.
Feeling happy and finding joy hasn’t been effortless this year. Some days are harder than others.
Many of us have struggled this year, had down days and down weeks, faced financial hardship, heart break, and at times, unbearable loneliness.
We’ve also learned new skills, kept the faith, and practiced self care, for the most part.
I have chosen to see this year as an opportunity for change, for increased resilience, and simply a part of our journey. There’s no point in fighting it- all we can do is hold on, do our best and ride it out. Finish the run.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” This is what I keep reminding myself. With the vaccine rollout beginning in the United States, I am hopeful. It feels like we are turning a corner. Our work, and the challenge, is not over yet, however.
So, I wanted to make a list of all the things that have helped me through the bleaker moments this year. I’ve had to continually check my mindset, lest I wallow for too long. Happiness may feel a bit harder to come by this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find it. You may have to make a little effort, but there are plenty of ways to add a little more joy to your life.
Here’s what’s getting me through and lifting my spirits this season:
- Impromptu dance breaks. Put on some jams and just have at it at your place. You’ll get the endorphins going, hopefully make yourself laugh, and just have a little fun. If you’re looking to add a social aspect to this, you could try TikTok, a Zoom dance party, or a live, virtual DJ set. If you’re not a dancer, just putting on some upbeat music can boost your mood.
- Schedule walks and talks with friends and family– Phone dates, text chains, Facetimes, and distance hangs have been a real life line this year. It’s not quite “enough” or as much as we may like, but man, it makes a big difference to get a dose of loving energy and spending time, even if digitally, connecting socially. Even a visit to one of your favorite shops can be a mood booster.
- COMEDY– Memes, Podcasts by Comedians (loving Sarah Silverman’s podcast right now) stand up on Netflix and my all time favorite…. SNL on Hulu every week. SNL gets an extra special place in my heart this year for bringing light to current events. Laughing has never felt better. Find the things that make you laugh and make them part of your routine.
- Creativity– Getting lost in writing, art projects, and holiday decorations will help you feel productive, keep you from overthinking, and reduce stress.
- Doing something for others- whether it’s bringing flowers or meals to essential workers, sending someone a card, making or buying them a special gift, giving a genuine compliment to stranger, or telling a loved one how much you appreciate them, it helps to take the focus off yourself and do something for others. Plus, you’ll feel better, too.
- Reading– Possibly the best part of this pandemic is the extra time I’ve had to spend reading books. Reading helps us reduce stress, it improves our memory and focus, and turns us into more educated and interesting people. Plus, it’s a great way to escape when reality is bumming you out. What’s not to love about that?
- Time with Animals and Pets. Dude. My cats and I were tight before, and now we might be borderline inappropriately close. BUT…. even running into and petting friends dogs on visits (or even strangers dogs!) has been spirit lifting. I also took my niece for a horse ride through the woods and we spent time with the horses in the stable after. It was really relaxing and gave us all a mood boost. You could look into being a foster parent for a pet, or adopting a pet of your own.
- Setting and achieving fitness goals– I’ve used my extra free time to cook healthier meals at home, and hit new running personal records. I’m using this time to focus on getting faster, more flexible, and go for more walks.
- Planning Ahead– Plan for what you’re excited about. Personally, I’m planning on and looking forward to moving back to a big city, travelling, taking dance classes, attending and hosting parties, and seeing live stand-up. Oh yeah, and dining out more frequently.
- Discovering New Music– Finding new music for car rides, to set my alarm to, for those impromptu dance breaks has been a huge mood booster. Sarah Silverman said on her podcast that she makes playlists for people based on the top hits from when they were 12 years old and 17 years old, and tries to find music like that. I looked up the top 100 hits from those years and I have to say, there’s definitely some nostalgic jams on there. I recommend trying this yourself and seeing what fun and nostalgic songs you find.
- Self care– I’ve been taking baths, doing face masks, prioritizing healthy food, spending time on personal goals, and treating myself to scented candles. You have to be kind to yourself now more than ever.
- Routine– I’ve been setting my alarm for 6AM to take full advantage of the daylight since it gets dark so early (I do not always get up at this time, but I set my alarm!) I also feel so much more productive when I do this. I wake up, make coffee, write a gratitude list, meditate for twenty minutes, exercise, then I shower and do my work.
- Shaking up your routine– As important as it is to have a routine, it’s also important to occasionally switch it up. 2020 can at times feel like the same day over and over again. Every week or two, I try to go to a new place to walk around, even if it’s just to window shop, hike, or visit a specialty grocery store.
- Gratitude– I’ve been practicing writing down what I’m grateful for for years at this point, and this year it has never been more important, or more effective at making me feel happier.
- Enjoy Nature- Walks on the beach, through public gardens, or even spending an extra couple of minutes in the floral section of the grocery store have been reliable sources of joy this year. Time spent in nature is proven to help us reduce stress and feel happier. Even tuning in to a nature documentary can help.
- Faith– I don’t consider myself religious, but I am definitely spiritual and my faith has absolutely gotten me through this year. I believe in something bigger, even if it’s just love- platonic, familial, romantic, whatever. Love is bigger than us. As hippy dippy as it may sound. prayer and trust gets me through the hard times because I believe everything is happening as it should, even if that seems far from the truth. Even if it’s not true…… it feels a lot better to walk around believing this. Having faith is like spiritual Xanax. When you trust what life is throwing at you, that it has a purpose, and will turn out ok, you can relax.
So there you have it. Those are my top tips for brightening your spirits this quarantine, and finding a little more happiness. It’s working for me. It’s still a struggle sometimes. This year is weird. It’s hard at times. We’re all going through it. We will get through it together. We are turning a corner. We will be stronger, more appreciative, more alive when it’s over. You’ve got this.