Small moments of joy mean more during times of struggle.
It’s a Monday afternoon and I’ve crawled back into bed with a book. Rain is beating on the window and I’m cozy.
It’s not often I have the time for such indulgences, but I’m one of the lucky ones. For some, physical distancing has increased time constraints with kids home from school combined with remote work duties.
For me, time has become a seemingly abundant resource and I’m making sure I make it count. I’ve been etching out a space in my day for moments like this one.
Moments that are purely for pleasure, moments that offer some respite from the scary world outside. They are teeny tiny pockets of joy.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept, “pockets of joy” are little moments of pleasure or happiness derived from the small things in life. And they’re pretty essential for us as humans if we’re to get by.
Often, these small moments of joy take on more meaning during times of struggle.
Think of how you seek comfort when a loved one is sick or when you’re going through a painful breakup. It’s likely those same coping mechanisms will bring you peace during quarantine.
Right now, many of the things we normally derive joy from are out of bounds. There are few things I love more than grabbing an after work drink with a friend or catching up with my mom over coffee.
I miss the adventure of trailing through the shops looking for a bargain and the pleasure of sitting in front of the big screen in a cinema munching mindlessly on popcorn.
I’m even missing my morning commute.
These are all things many of us mostly take for granted in our day to day. We probably don’t give them too much weight.
When we’re able to see them for what they are — moments of joy and pleasure — we can begin to understand the importance of creating new moments from the comfort of our own homes.
In times of stress, like the one we find ourselves in now, we need these moments more than ever. Most of us are dealing with a lot of extra pressure.
Some of us are under a lot of financial stress as a result of the outbreak. Others are worried about family members getting sick, or getting sick themselves.
There’s a culture of fear and uncertainty out there which lends itself to feelings of anxiety and depression.
With nothing to keep our spirits up, it’s all too easy to get down.
I spent my first week of isolation mostly moving between the couch and the kitchen, grabbing snacks and watching endless news updates and trash TV.
Then I realized that this method of existing really wasn’t working for me.
I felt bored, lethargic, and like my enthusiasm for life had been sucked right out of me. If I was to get through, I needed to find things that lit me up, so to speak.
I needed moments in my day to look forward to. Moments that would help me break away from the doom and gloom.
So I made pockets of joy part of my new daily routine.
Here’s how I did it:
- Bake something yummy. One of the first things I did was to cook and bake. I got happily lost in the process and marveled at my creations at the end, feeling a swell of pride at having achieved something.
- Catch up on your watch list. I made a movie bucket list with my partner and we spent our evenings cuddled under a blanket in front of the TV.
- Brighten your space. I bought flowers and placed them on the kitchen table where I would see them and every time I’d walk by they’d make me smile.
- Get moving. I start my mornings with a dance around the kitchen. Those few moments of uncoordinated jiggling set me up for a more positive day ahead.
- Get some R&R. When I made these changes, my time at home started to feel more like an opportunity to recharge rather than getting grounded by my parents. My spirits were lifted. I started to feel hopeful and optimistic.
- Enjoy silence. How often do you get to sit and do nothing? For most of us the answer is not very often. Put your phone on flight mode, switch off any distractions, and relish the joy of having nothing to do.
- Get lost in a good story. I’m finally working my way through a pile of books that have sat on my bookshelf unloved for some time. A chapter or two before I drift off at night sets me up for a blissful night’s sleep.
- Run yourself a hot bath. I like to add lots of bubbles, light some candles, and maybe even sip some wine.
- Play dress up. I’ve been pulling out items from my wardrobe and putting together outfits that I plan on wearing when my social calendar is back to normal. It gets me out of my sweats and provides some welcome escapism.
- Be creative. These activities work for me, but you may find joy in a routine that’s completely different. Watercolor, make or listen to music, the list is endless. The trick is to find that thing you’ve been wanting to do for forever, but just haven’t had the time to devote to it.
Once you find those little things that bring you bliss, you may find yourself feeling like quarantine was just what you needed.
I know I did.
I began waking up in the mornings and looking forward to the day ahead.
I didn’t feel as scared or as threatened by what was going on in the outside world, and if it ever did start to feel like too much, I simply retreated to one of my happy places and started to feel better again.
It didn’t make all my troubles go away, but it did give me some respite.
It reminded me that no matter what’s going on in life, as cliché as it sounds, I can always find reasons to be joyful.
For me, the trick was to be deliberate about creating those special little moments. I thought about what makes me happy and I wrote a list of moments that I could carry out throughout the day.
When I need a little extra joy, I step away from those fear-inducing news bulletins, and put it in action — and if you need a little boost you can do the same.
It might seem like we don’t have much to feel joyful about right now. People are sick and dying, others are losing their jobs.
We can’t see our friends and family, and the places we normally go to for fun — bars, cafés, restaurants — are all closed for the foreseeable future. But in any situation we find ourselves in, we have the opportunity to seek out joy.
I’m reminded of an illustration of two stick figures. One is carrying a jar of happiness. The other points at it and says “Where did you find that? I’ve been searching for it everywhere,” to which his friend replies “I created it myself.”
We don’t get to choose our circumstances in life, but we can choose how we react to them. I choose joy.
Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.