5 Ways To Find Simple Joys and Lift the Clouds

Daylight savings time ends next week, just after Halloween. Thanksgiving is next, and Hanukkah and Christmas are right behind. And that’s 2020, folks! Unfortunately, that means this holiday season is rife with a whole new level of complications and chaos. The pandemic drags on, the economy needs stimulus, there are hurricanes and wildfires, and we’re collectively holding our breath until the end of the most heated election season in memory. Everyone is affected. We’re zoomed out and stressed out. When I ask friends and clients where they’re going on their next trip or how they’re spending the holidays, I get blank stares and no clear answers. A psychiatrist client told me she’s busier than ever. So this week’s blog is a ‘think piece’ about how to find simple joys to lift the clouds and get through the weeks and months ahead. 

While joy comes in many forms, here are just a few suggestions from my own experiences and conversations. I hope you find something here that, at the very least, makes you smile, and at best, buoys your spirits for the duration.

1. Take a (safe) road trip. 

Traveling during the pandemic has been eliminated for most of us, but if you’re prepared (and a little brave), I know some people who have found a way to get out of Dodge. One couple took a road trip to Seattle to visit their daughter. They told me they were pleasantly surprised at how considerate everyone was, how clean things were, and how many precautions have been put in place—even in the most unexpected places—to keep the virus at bay. (Yes, plexiglass manufacturers are doing quite well!) Do keep in mind, however, that it can be stressful: a couple I know just returned from a weekend getaway in San Diego, and though they said it was nice to be there, dining out isn’t the same relaxing experience we once knew. If Bryce and Zion are on your bucket list, this may be a great time to go. The key is creating an itinerary that makes you feel comfortable and safe. For ideas within California, check out the Forbes article Fabulous But Fastidious: Planning the Perfect California Road Trip During COVID.

2. Partake in the arts.

Theaters and most museums are dark, but the global community of actors, musicians, and other artists has risen to the challenge, using their creativity to feed our hungry souls in new and unusual ways. Last weekend I watched a virtual recital presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, with Hillary Hahn on violin. It was a perfect performance despite an imperfect production (they are still working out the kinks). If that’s something you’d enjoy, check out their listing of virtual concerts here. If fine art is your passion, museums all over the world have opened their virtual doors, offering online tours. It’s an incredible opportunity to see the works at locations you’ve only dreamed about before. This listing of the 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World is a great place to start.

3. Explore new options from the couch.

Already watched all of Netflix? It’s the joke that is all too real for many of us. When I realized that I had exhausted the same old options, I discovered the Sundance Channel, and it has quickly become my favorite. It offers old-time favorites (think Andy Griffith and Hogan’s Heroes), as well as great originals. And Netflix does add new movies every week. I just watched ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ (here’s the trailer), which offers a very timely and balanced look at this historic event. I nominate Sacha Baron Cohen for my own ‘best actor’ award for his portrayal of Abbie Hoffman. Next on my list on Amazon Prime is the movie Paterson with Adam Driver—a low-key drama about a poet in this NJ town where an unlikely number of famous people have lived and worked (including yours truly!).

4. Listen to a great book.

Maybe it’s the stress of the world, or perhaps it’s my normal workload that comes with year-end planning for clients, but I’ve been struggling to sit down and concentrate long enough to read words on a page (a very odd occurrence for me, a lover of books). Audio books have saved me! This month I listened to two books by William Kent Krueger: This Tender Land and Ordinary Grace. Both were great ‘reads,’ and I was surprised by how much I loved them. Other recent favorites are Cloud Street (the Australian classic by Tim Winton), as well as two books that I read on the page (rather than listened to): Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and What Are You Going Through: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez. And, of course, the latest addition to the Louise Penny Chief Inspector Gamache series, All the Devils Are Here

5. Breathe some fresh air and get moving!

Self-care is especially important right now. I haven’t been great about it. (I hope you’ve been better!) To get back on track, I have rededicated time to walking outside every day—even if only for 30 minutes. Not only is it Dr. Hwang’s orders, but I know it will help me with my overall health and my mental focus. One thing I have been consistent with is working with my personal trainer Nancy (on Zoom), so I’m keeping my muscles toned, and it gives me a much-needed break from the daily routine. Do whatever works for you. Walk around the neighborhood. Get down to the beach. Take a bike ride. As Nike says, Just do it! 

I hope my ideas inspire you to pay attention to small things—and spark some joy, wherever you can find it. If you’ve taken a fantastic road trip or found some other fabulous diversions, please share them… I’d love to hear your story. Take care and be well!