Have you ever found it difficult letting go? I know a lot of people who do. As a mom, there were times I found it tough to let go of so many little things when my daughter was little. I suppose we might be hard-wired this way. We have to be aware of all those little things because darn it, we are responsible for the life of another person. The actual LIFE of them! And I think that for many of us, once inclined to focus on all those tiny details, it can become difficult later on to let go. It just shouldn’t be hard to find joy! It should come to us as easily as breathing does.
Years ago, we were in a car accident. One that changed the lives of my mom, my daughter, and me permanently. Each of us has lived with chronic pain and some limitations on our mobility for the past 20 years. But there’s one thing that I am grateful for when it comes to the car accident. Even though my life is a little more difficult than it used to be, it’s also filled with even more joy than ever. It helped me see what is really important in life and to place priority on finding joy in every day. Every single one of them.
5 Simple Ways to Find Joy Every Day
1. Embrace gratitude.
The day we were in the accident, we had people repeatedly saying that we were lucky to be alive. We were injured, sure, but we were alive. And as car accidents go, our injuries, although they meant a permanent lifestyle change, were in the big picture, quite minor. Still, it can be difficult sometimes to wake up multiple times during the night in so much pain that walking to the bathroom becomes an ordeal. Right after the accident, I had to ask people to stop talking about how amazing it was that we had survived. It was tough in that moment to keep thinking about the “what ifs”. But now, this is how I begin and end every day. I count my blessings. All the years I’ve had with my family that I might not have. The fact that I still have my sight despite the glass that went into my eyes during the crash. That despite the sometimes excruciating pain I feel when walking, I CAN still walk.
2. Appreciate your accomplishments.
Okay so the gratitude thing probably is pretty simple if you think about it. I’m grateful for my family, my friends, a roof over my head etc etc. But do you ever think to include yourself in that list? It’s so easy to look at our “to do” list at the end of the day and focus on what we didn’t get done. Instead, create a “ta da” list. Here’s what I DID accomplish today. And appreciate each and every one of them. Yesterday, I was sick. I had a long list of things to be done but instead, I only spent an hour on work and then I rested and slept the rest of the day. I’m celebrating taking that time to help my body heal.
3. Release the frustration.
For me, this involves prayer. I let go of the stress of the day by handing it over to God. If prayer isn’t for you, try meditation. It has proven calming effects. Or sometimes, a good cry in the shower or a good primal scream out in your car can really help. Just let go of it and make room for the joy.
4. Self care. And Even More Self Care.
You probably know the old adage comparing self care to being on a plane. You’re told to secure your oxygen mask first before you help your child because if you pass out, both of you are in trouble. It may seem trite but it’s true. Running on empty and trying to care for my family has never had anything but disastrous results, Instead, I need time to myself. I need to keep my mind active. And I need to strengthen my body.
- Think about those hobbies you put aside when you had children. Is there something you can pick up again? Can you pick up a modified version of it again? Perhaps you don’t have time to make a huge elaborate knitted sweater but maybe you could just knit a square here and there that can form a larger project later.
- Make sleep a priority. There is a 7 month old living in my home right now so I get it. If you have to get up during the night to care for someone else, you can only do so much about getting enough sleep. But it’s too easy to stay up to do one more chore or in my case, do one more work task.
- Choose healthy foods. Oh, I remember all too well the days of my daughter being really little. I was a single mom and although my mom was around to help a lot, she also worked full time and I was on my own quite a bit. I often existed on whatever food I could grab and eat. No cooking. No fussing. I quickly learned that it was just as easy to grab some baby carrots and hummus or some grapes and cheese as it was to grab some cookies.
- Go for a walk. If you can get away on a walk by yourself, do it. If not, the next best thing is a family walk.
- Read. Even if only for 15 minutes, it’s amazing how refreshed you can feel after a little brain break like this.
- Just sit. Grab a cup of tea (or whatever your beverage of choice is – a tall glass of water can help in more ways than one!) and just sit for 10 minutes with NOTHING to do. Just sitting.
- If you have kids, hire a babysitter. Or trade off with another parent. Get your significant other or the grandparents to take care of the kids for an hour. Do whatever you have to do in order to leave the house all by yourself for an hour or so. Go work out. Get a massage. Meet up with a friend. Pick what’s going to make you feel refreshed and recharged.
5. Nurture your relationships.
There is no one “must do” way of nurturing relationships. I’m an introvert and so for me, it’s quite different than for some of my extroverted friends. I don’t always want to BE in the same space as those I love. I need more time to myself than many people do. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still work on my relationships. Sometimes, I just pop over to their Facebook wall and leave a little message to let them know I’m thinking of them. I send cards in the mail to tell someone I was praying for them. If I come across a link to something I think would be of great interest to them or something that would make them smile, I email it.
Even if I’m having a crazy busy day, I still try to spend some time giving my daughter even just a 15 minute break from caring for the baby so she can eat without having to juggle him at the same time. And during those 15 minutes, I put all work aside and get down on the floor with Walter acting ridiculous and silly and doing all the things I know will make him laugh. Those few moments are just as important for me as they are for him (and for my daughter)!
One last idea:
It can be really helpful to place joyful reminders around you. I remember when I was a teacher and I had a photo of my “happy place” above my desk. I had photos of my daughter on my desk. And in my desk drawer, there was this silly little trinket that my daughter had won at the fair and given to me as a reminder of a really fun day. Fresh flowers, pleasant aromas (essential oils perhaps?), beautiful art, and sentimental souvenirs gathered on your travels can all be great little touchstones to joy. Surround yourself with joy and it becomes much easier to find on the really tough days.