Savoring Simple Joys
We are living through such a strange and difficult time. This coronavirus pandemic has required all of us to be flexible in ways we have never needed to be before. Our schools, jobs, and general day to day lives have been turned upside down. We are either faced with way more downtime than we are used to, or we are having to juggle multiple responsibilities all at once. Some folks have lost their jobs and are struggling to figure out how to maintain. Others are having to figure out how to both work from home and keep their children educated and well cared for. In all the chaos and uncertainty, I encourage you to really take stock of your coping skills and use them to your advantage. Now is the time to really dig in to those self-care strategies.
As a therapist, I often discuss coping strategies with my clients and work with them to identify the skills that will work best for them. You can do a Google search for “coping skills” and get inundated with options- everything from meditation to intensive exercise. Today, I just want to share the coping strategy that has worked the best for me: savoring simple moments of joy or contentedness. When I look back on my life, I can see that this is something I have actually always gravitated towards, I just never realized that it was an actual technique that some folks have to learn. Once I realized how this practice of gratitude can work to improve mood and resilience, I could start to make a conscious effort to do it more often. What this looks like for me is making myself fully present during moments when I notice that there is something special, joyful, or peaceful happening. These are generally the smallest little things but the more I do it, the more nourishing it feels.
Brene Brown is one of my favorite leaders in the Social Work field and in her work, she describes how people will sometimes get so concerned about the what-ifs and waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, that they don't take the time to fully appreciate moments of joy in front of them. It can feel vulnerable and scary, because those moments may not last, or there may be so many other devastating things going on that embracing joy can almost feel wrong. I found that this concept also resonated with me tremendously. As much as I gravitate towards gratitude, I can also tend to hold back out of fear. This is something else I am consciously working through when I practice this coping strategy- It is okay to acknowledge that the world is in chaos while also embracing small moments of joy and peace in my life. In fact, I would say it is necessary to find those moments of peace and joy when all else seems bleak.
So, here are a few examples. I encourage you do some reflection on things that bring you joy. Do you give them credit in your life? Do you take a moment to enjoy those moments and fully savor them?
The one that comes most naturally for me is turning the volume up and singing along when my favorite song comes on the radio- I bet this is something a lot of people do without realizing that it actually has a therapeutic benefit!
Another example is putting my phone down when something special is happening. Like whenmy kid is doing something sweet or funny. I will try to stop whatever I'm doing and just take in every single detail that I can. If she is giving me a hug or telling me a story, then I am taking in her facial expressions, the messy halo of hair around her head where it is coming undone from her ponytail. I'm noticing how she smells like syrup from this morning's breakfast. While I'm noticing what is happening externally in those moments, I'm also acknowledging how I am feeling. I am tying this moment together with my awareness and embracing the feelings of love and joy they bring me.
I also really enjoy being outside when the temperature is just right. This one seems silly, but it is so replenishing to sit outside and savor the weather when it is nice. Especially in Texas, when the summer heat can get brutal, it makes me appreciate those mild days that much more. Bonus gratitude points if my husband is also sitting outside playing the guitar and the kids are playing nicely.
These are just a few examples of how this practice works in my life. I have found that savoring these moments has been even more important during this pandemic. If you are trying out coping strategies, I invite you to give this one a try if you are able. Do you have any special moments that are worth holding on to? Sipping a favorite drink? Talking with a loved one? I would love to know what simple moments of joy you observe in your life.