With everything that 2020 has thrown at us, you may feel like everything has gone a bit sideways. And in many ways it has. But this year has also turned out to be more about appreciating what we have instead of wanting for more, hasn’t it? My partner and I very much appreciate each other and our children, since the four of us have spent so much time exclusively together this year.
While there have been ups and downs, a lot has happened at the community and personal level that we can be grateful for, and we have all become a little more aware of the importance of the little things; the moments of connection and our individual ability to infuse joy into each day.
Let’s look at some simple ways in which we can focus on what truly matters most and find joy every day.
Focus on Your Community
The better part of this year has shone a spotlight on the importance of community support. Many have turned to their neighbours for practical help, but also for social and emotional support. Some communities have combined all three with initiatives like neighbourhood food banks, clothing drives, errand support and job search help. As well, shopping local and supporting local business has become a huge desire across the country.
Create The Community You Want
Sometimes it’s simply about getting together safely to share a joyful moment and blow off some steam. Some neighbourhoods have created weekly outdoor parties featuring a wide range of engaging activities. Painting neighbourhood murals and making a joyful noise by singing or having an impromptu music jam are just some of the ways that communities are stepping up to spread joy. Join the world in ringing a bell at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
You can even create a virtual community on Facebook by creating your own Facebook group. You would be surprised how rewarding it can be to bring a group of people together who share the same interests, hobbies, passions, or even just geographical location. I should know, I started the Yonge and Eglinton Community group on Facebook, because I loved the value that I got from other such Facebook groups when I lived in other neighbourhoods. It really brings a neighbourhood together! Feel free to join us if you like. The apartment building that I live in has even set up their own Facebook group. If there’s one thing that we all need more of this year, it’s connection, even if it’s only virtual at the moment.
Safe Santa Visits
Wondering how your kids will get their wish list to Santa safely? While some malls are implementing social distancing measures for in-person visits, many Santa’s are going virtual and offering Zoom calls.
One such Virtual Santa notes that Zoom calls are twice as long as the usual mall visit. Your kids may get more Santa joy with a personal video call than in a crowded mall.
Helping your kids feel supported and safe is important. Find ways to keep normalcy in an otherwise abnormal time while keeping in mind that kids are really just living in the moment!
Get Serious About What You Can Control
How many times have you told yourself that when a certain thing happens or you get a certain thing, you will finally be happy? Perhaps when you finish that big work project, get that promotion, pay off the mortgage, get a new car, get a raise, or meet that special someone, you get the idea.
You Are In The Driver’s Seat
Reality check: you are in control. Joy does not depend on outside influences. Joy need not wait for a moment in the future that may never arrive. Joy resides within and is available to you 24/7 – if you are conscious of it and take action.
Where is Your Locus of Control?
Psychologists use the term locus of control to describe how much control we feel over our lives. An internal locus of control means that we feel strong agency in our lives and attribute our successes to our own abilities and efforts. Those with an external locus of control do not feel they have much control over their lives and attribute success to external factors. It’s time to take back the power of your level of happiness by getting back to what’s really important – family, health, nature, laughter, and love.
The Power of Positivity
Our consumer culture tells us: buy more. Do more. Be more. But what about the little things? Isn’t it time to get back to basics? That brilliant yellow leaf, glinting in the sun. Your children’s happy smiles when you take them out in nature. Joy is captured in moments (and they don’t need to all end up on social media). But your heart must be open to find joy, or those precious moments may just pass you by.
Instead of looking for more outside of yourself, try looking within. Meditation can bring us to a place of stillness where we can truly hear ourselves. Without the roar of constant seeking and doing, we are finally free to hear our inner guidance.
You Have All You Need
From a spiritual perspective, you already have everything that you need. As Buddhist philosopher Pema Chodron says: “How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present.”
Bring Back the 80’s
The 80’s was about more than acid-wash jeans, neon sweaters and feathered hair. Without the internet it was a slower, more social time. Is it time to ease up on our beloved tech and slow things down – 80’s style?
Walking is the original exercise. There is something about walking in the forest – the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. The crunch of leaves and running water. The fresh smell of cedar and pine. Try taking your family (or just yourself) for a long forest walk. Nature has a way of bringing out the best in us, and you may find that you feel more abundant after time spent outdoors.
Board games were a staple of the 80’s. Why not get your family together and kick it old school with Monopoly, Risk or Scrabble? For a modern twist, try these 6 board games you can play over Zoom.
When we can drag our teenagers out of their rooms, one of our favorite games lately has been Escape the Dark Castle. It’s a cooperative game, which means that you play as a team and win or lose together. There are a series of challenges to be overcome as a team to escape the dark castle. Don’t tell them, but I’ve bought a couple of expansion packs as Christmas gifts! There are a few other new board games on the menu for us this Christmas too.
Block parties are a great way to get to know your community. Try organizing an outdoor sing-along with your neighbours – BYOHC (Bring Your Own Hot Chocolate).
Live to Give
We can get so caught up with our day-to-day lives that it’s easy to forget the joy of giving. Giving back takes us out of ourselves and shifts the focus to someone else.
Giving Makes You Happier
In a 2020 study, participants were asked to play a multiple-choice video game. Only half were told that a donation to the United Nations World Food Programme would be made for every answer they got right. In the post-game assessment, the first group was significantly happier. Giving makes you happier, which leads to more giving, which further increases happiness. As the authors concluded, people feel good when they do good. Find the Little Free Pantry in your neighbourhood and load it up for someone in need.
Small Gestures Make A Difference
Giving doesn’t have to be a grand or expensive gesture. Drop off a fresh batch of cookies to your neighbour with a new baby. Donate some warm socks, jewellery, or makeup to a women’s shelter. Use your loyalty points to buy goods for those in need, every little bit helps. The key is to choose an activity that you enjoy doing, for a community that you love.
Do you plan for joy? It’s important to make sure you have something to look forward to. Not just for the holidays, but more importantly for the weeks and months that follow.
Something To Look Forward To
Write down one activity that you will engage in over the next week. This can be as simple as watching a movie you are excited to see or calling a friend to chat. It can be anything that you find enjoyable, as long as it is not unhealthy (i.e., eating a whole cake in one sitting). With travel off the table, we don’t have a beach vacation to look forward to. Plan a summer vacation in Ontario for next year, just in case. We’re always planning our summer camping trip well ahead of time and this past summer it was an awesome escape and reset opportunity. Since camping was an accessible summer vacation this year, camping gear is in short supply. Consider stocking up now. If you want to follow our camping adventures, you can check out one of my other sites, supergoodcamping.com, or listen to the Super Good Camping Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
Something You’re Good At
You can give your happiness an added boost by scheduling an activity for each day that provides you with a sense of accomplishment. Learning a tune on a musical instrument, fixing something in the house, some DIY projects, re-organizing your spice shelf or even donating a pair of socks to a local charity. These are all activities that can help to bring your “Locus of Control” back to centre.
Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude journals are great for some, but they’re not for everyone. Here are 3 simple ways to up your gratitude quotient:
Set an alarm on your phone for a quick gratitude break. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stop for a moment and think of something you’re grateful for, then resume what you were doing.
Bring The Positivity
When planning social video calls (aka Online Happy Hour), set a small homework task for everyone who will be participating in the call: To show up with one positive thing to share so that the conversation stays fun, positive and fulfilling.
Say Thank You
Take the time to bring a little more positivity into your home by saying thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.
Set Up an Ironclad Bedtime Routine
We all know the fuzzy thinking and irritability that comes from lack of sleep. But what about happiness? A 2019 study found that short sleepers had the lowest levels of happiness.
Routine & Habit Make The Difference
Set yourself up for sleep success by creating an ironclad bedtime routine. This will let your body know that it’s time to get into sleep mode. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night to scroll on social, it’s time to remove your phone from your bedroom. Not only will this prevent notifications from waking you up, it will keep your room nice and dark to increase production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the changes happening all around us? Anxiety kicking into high gear and you are having trouble enjoying the things that matter? Sometimes those feelings go deeper and your system or your hormones could very well be out of balance. It’s not your fault but you can certainly give your body some help to get things rebalanced. In fact I see patients everyday that just don’t feel well any more and this year has thrown those feelings into overdrive!
I can help! Let’s meet to check your hormone levels, see how your nervous system is doing, and work on building up your physical resilience while finding your inner joy and peace.
Book a call. Let’s do this together!
Happy Holidays everyone.
By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
Ackerman, C.E. 25 CBT Techniques and Worksheets for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/cbt-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-techniques-worksheets/
Chodron, Pema. 2002. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Shambhala Publications.
Lai W, Yang Z, Mao Y, Zhang Q, Chen H, Ma J. When Do Good Deeds Lead to Good Feelings? Eudaimonic Orientation Moderates the Happiness Benefits of Prosocial Behavior. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 6;17(11):4053. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17114053. PMID: 32517165; PMCID: PMC7312963.
Locus of Control: How do we determine our successes and failures? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/moments-matter/201708/locus-control
Zhao SZ, Wang MP, Viswanath K, Lai A, Fong DYT, Lin CC, Chan SS, Lam TH. Short Sleep Duration and Insomnia Symptoms were Associated with Lower Happiness Levels in Chinese Adults in Hong Kong. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun 12;16(12):2079. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122079. PMID: 31212815; PMCID: PMC6616396.