Ways to Ignite Joy in Hard Times

When things are bad, whether huge like a global pandemic, or something smaller in scale like, say, winter, with it’s shorter days and bad weather, or just anything that gets us down, it’s hard to keep our attitudes positive. It’s hard to keep going sometimes. We get weighted down, depressed, and then we kind of shut down. Our moods head south. And I don’t mean Orlando and Disney, I mean south towards grumpy and cranky.

There’s something we can do. We don’t have to live with grumpy and cranky. We can kick them to the curb and invite in happy and energized. How? Some kind of magic? Well, kind of. The magic that happens when we change our focus.

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Change your focus – and change your mood, and attitude. Take some simple steps to get the juices flowing in your life again. And by juices, I mean activity…mental and physical activity. You need to create positive activity. That creates positive energy.

Here are some ideas.

Make a list of things you’ve done. And not just big things, little things, too. List school degrees, things you’ve learned to do, things you’ve made, a family raised, jobs you’ve held, people you’ve helped, etc. Realize how strong you are and how far you’ve come. Some ideas: building a bookcase from a kit, driving across the state, taking a cooking class or learning to play piano, helping your Mom replant her flowerbeds, playing a sport, being a scout leader for your child when they were young. Maybe you take great photos or throw a great backyard barbecue, or you set up a website for your brother-in-law’s restaurant. List everything you can think of.

Read a book – choose a happy ending romance or an autobiography of someone you admire (chances are their life was not as easy as we would think). Or read about a new subject that you’ve always been interested in. Reading uses the mind more than watching tv.

Cook or bake something you’ve never made before – I’ve always wanted to make a bundt cake but I haven’t yet. I even bought the pan. Find a recipe that sounds awesome and give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, no big deal, just try something else. Learning is good for us.

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Get physical – find an easy exercise video (check out youtube) like yoga or tai chi. Ride a bike. Walk the dog. Even if you’re not very mobile right now, there’s exercise videos that you can do from your chair. Get your blood moving.

Look around you – take walks if you can, and look at the trees, the sky, watch the clouds. Pay attention to the weather, and notice how it affects life around you. Watch the rabbits or squirrels run around your yard. Watch the birds. Pay attention to your spouse, pets, children. Really be in the moment. Enjoy what’s around you.

Plan a trip you can’t afford – I know this sounds strange, but pretend you can afford that trip to Rome, or Yosemite National Park, or Denver, or wherever. Find a neat hotel, plan your activities, where you’ll eat, etc. Learn all about the area.

Think of others – hold the door for someone, be courteous, be kind. Maybe your kids are too big for you to sew up a flannel blanket or stuffed bear, but there are other needy people out there who would love something you could make. Consider your elderly family members or neighbors, and offer to get them groceries or see that they’re taken care of. Helping others helps us too.

Dream a dream – reawaken a dream you’ve let slide to the back burner. Think about it, plan it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, or make a quilt, or learn to play guitar, or compete in horse competitions, or raise goats, or grow the best roses in your county. Maybe you want to grow a hobby into a business so you can quit a job you hate or are tired of after 30 years of working. Now’s the time.

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Find a dream – if there isn’t any dream on your back burner, so to speak, it’s time to find one. Think about what would bring you joy. Research ideas, read about subjects that interest you, and find a dream or project to work towards. Something that will add a spark of joy to your life and ignite your energy.

Start a new project – maybe you’ve been wanting to redecorate your bedroom, or organize the closets in your house, or finish that vacation scrapbook, or plan next year’s garden. Clear a space on the dining room table or wherever you can spread out, get some supplies, and get working. A project doesn’t have to be huge. It can be as small as cleaning out the entry closet. Or sorting thru your clothes and tossing what doesn’t fit. Sit down and make a list of things that need done around the house, or things you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t. And don’t forget to add something fun, too, like sewing new Christmas stockings or making your own candles, or whatever.

Get crafty – speaking of making your own…whether or not you consider yourself crafty, there are a zillion craft ideas out there for all kinds of diy craft project skill levels. Search the internet, especially pinterest.com for tons of ideas for things you can make. If your skills are lacking, check out tutorials on youtube.com. It could be making soap or jewelry, coloring, poetry, sewing, knitting, crocheting, paper crafts, wood signs, painting (even paint by number kits), drawing, scrapbooking, etc. Creating something is a great activity anytime, but especially when things aren’t going well. It makes you feel in control and capable. And that’s always a good thing.

Decorate – similar to ‘get crafty’, each season brings new opportunities for new decor items – for the front porch, the living room, the kitchen, the office. Find some inspiration and a diy craft idea that you want to try. If you have seasonal decor that you’ve always used, try to mix and match and change it up a bit for a change.

Reconnect – whether it’s with a sibling, or an old friend, an older relative, a neighbor, or even with your younger self or an unused skill or talent, spend some time reconnecting. Talking helps us feel connected, and helps relieve any loneliness you may be feeling. Reliving old times helps us remember good things (great memories) but also the bad things. This makes us realize how resilient we are, and that things aren’t always great, but we get thru them. Sometimes we make the past seem all rosy, but in reality there is never all good, and never all bad. And we get thru it.

Start a journal – when you start reliving those old times, think about writing down the joys and tribulations of growing up and living your life. Write about things you’ve done, people you’ve known and loved. Write about your school years. Write about your family. Write about what you’ve loved and what you wanted when you were a kid. There could be some hidden dreams rediscovered. And sometimes, we think we haven’t done anything with our life, but when we start writing things down, we realize we’ve done quite a lot.

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These are just a few ideas, there are so many more things you can do to get your energy and mood back up. Try one, or two. And remember you are capable and resilient. And, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Bad times don’t stay. The rain storm moves thru and the blue sky and sunshine return.

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