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Finding the Simple Pleasures: Rediscovering Joy in Everyday Life


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What would life be like if we didn't have any hardship or resistance?


I know a lot of us have fantasized about this. What would it be like if we didn't have to work with difficult co-workers, deal with everyday living expenses, schedule appointments, and all the other things that come with the adult life package?


I know that when I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy for me to slip into autopilot. And when we go on autopilot, it's hard to put much focus on anything else that isn't the everyday mundane stuff we need to do to survive. The result (at least for me) is living in a state of brokenness. Only recently have I been getting back to being myself.


Finding Small Glimmers of Joy


If you're new to the blog, let me start by introducing myself as someone who has been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression. For a while, I convinced myself that "someone like me" shouldn't be trying to uplift people. I began thinking of myself as "fake" or a hypocrite simply because I have these internal battles. This couldn't be further from the truth. If anything, "someone like me" is more than qualified to speak on topics of uplifting and encouragement--because I know what it is like to be in desperate need of it.


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With that being said, I don't want to suggest that I have some sort of listical that's going to cure all of your feelings of inadequacy, depression, or whatever you may be fighting against. Rather, I simply share methods that have helped me in the past and still help me to this day (when I remember to do them, of course). And one thing I have learned over time is that big doors swing on little hinges. In other words, small habits and practices have a great impact.


We all have them--small things that bring us happiness. They're not always "productive" and sometimes they don't even carry much meaning outside of "this makes me smile" or "this makes me feel good". Maybe it's collecting figurines, playing an instrument, journaling, playing with our pets, a very specific sweet treat, etc. Whatever it is, when you're able to have that thing or engage in that activity, your heart somehow feels lighter. Making room for these seemingly insignificant actions is huge for our overall well-being.


Focused Effort


Web-based program Big JOY, created by The Greater Good Science Center has focused on this idea of 'micro-acts'. As of November 2023, over 22,000 people from 22 countries have participated in this program in which they are tasked with engaging in one or more micro-acts and logging said acts. What the program finds is that participant well-being jumped 26%. All in all, participants feel more empowered to pursue happiness.


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More information can be found about this in The Greater Good Magazine, but if we can take anything away from this program, it is that joy and happiness can be achieved with focused effort. We tend to shy away from the idea that happiness should require "effort", but in all honesty, the reason it does take effort is that it takes literally no effort to be upset, sad, pessimistic, etc. However, when we task ourselves with engaging in a kind act, journaling, creating a gratitude list, and reflecting, we're making it more and more difficult to stew in our negative emotions.


I've noticed that on days that I take time to pray, do my devotional, reach out to a friend, and engage in an activity that makes me happy my overall mood is significantly better than on the days in which I do none of those things. I allow myself to focus outwardly (things I can do, people I can speak to, doing something for someone else) instead of focusing inwardly (allowing my negative feelings to fester and become turbulent).


What Brings Me Joy?


I just want to take some time to list the things that have been bringing me joy and allowing me to come back to myself the way I know I need to:


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Devotional/Prayer: I try to make this something I do before I leave the house for my commute or before I get fully started with my day. I can't speak for everyone, but feelings of anxiousness and fear tend to dwindle when I create that 1-on-1 time with God.


Giving my dog undivided attention: Our dog Tyson is a sweet lab mix who lives for attention. So he's always happy to romp around, take a chill walk, or simply cuddle on the floor (because he's not getting on the couch). Pouring our attention and love into another living thing (whether it's a kid, a pet, or a plant) does wonders for our well-being.


Adding to my collection of Funko Pops: This isn't something I do frequently as that can get costly pretty fast. But it's always a serotonin boost when I can add another beloved character from my favorite movies or shows to the shelf.


Reading fiction: For a long time I've been strictly reading non-fiction to help grow and challenge myself. While I still plan to keep a non-fiction book in my circle, I've been finding that taking time to read novels and short stories has been bringing back my desire to be creative and imaginative


Walking/Sitting Outside: Preferably this takes place on a nice sunny, mild-temperature day. Taking walks is recommended for both physical and mental well-being. However, even on days when I may not be taking a walk, just being able to sit outside and be still has done more than I expected. For whatever reason, sitting outside and taking in my environment makes me more focused when I'm praying or meditating. I can't even describe how grateful I feel when I'm able to experience the gentle sunlight and cool breezes.


Having a piece of chocolate: If I can get extremely specific, the Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel squares will do it for me every single time.


Meeting up with a friend: Prioritizing friendships is something that I strive to be more consistent about. We all have our own lives, and we all may be going through things that we haven't talked about with our friends. Rather than focusing on the frequency of time spent, I focus on the quality of time spent. I remember hearing a phrase that stuck with me: "We don't get to see each other often, but when we do let's meet for a long time". The joy I feel when I get to catch up with a friend (especially after a long time) is indescribable. However, I will say I'm going to strive to make the frequency of meetups catch up with the quality (let's call it a resolution of sorts for the year).



I wouldn't say anything I listed is particularly unique, but they create a massive impact on my quality of life. The things that bring us joy don't have to be special to anyone else, just us! Your list could look a lot like mine, or it could be completely different. Of course, everything we do must be within reason.


And by that, I just mean that we can't be so deep into these practices for ourselves that we neglect our other responsibilities. It's not like I can skip work meetings to play with my dog or ignore the other things I have to do. These small glimmers of joy are important and should also be considered a responsibility. However, when we are prioritizing them at the wrong time or place, we're just becoming indulgent and avoidant (especially if those small joys just so happen to involve food and sweets). I highly recommend scheduling these times if it's too difficult to pinpoint when to prioritize them. If you were to put anything in your calendar, I would suggest a time for stillness. Just like it sounds, it's a time to be still; maybe to pray, meditate, or just simply reflect on how you've been feeling and why.


Like I said, there's no "5 Easy Steps to Beat Depression" or anything like that. It's all just in the daily work. In addition to the classic work of mental health like finding a trusted therapist or obtaining a prescription to help medicate a condition, we must also do the work of finding and nurturing our joy. It is truly work worth doing.


Thanks for reading,


--Raven

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