We’re living in unprecedented times, how often have you heard that by now? We could simplify it further if we wanted to. We’re living in difficult times. Or even, we’re living in crappy times.
Because that’s how it feels some days, you want to be positive, and you want to do your part to keep others safe, but that doesn’t mean things don’t affect you. When a lockdown is extended, when another thing gets cancelled or postponed, when the day feels heavy and weighs you down, it’s allowed to affect you.
It’s affecting me. I lost my father a year and a half ago, and so I tell myself that I’m staying home to ensure that someone else doesn’t have to. I try to write and read, to see it as an opportunity to capitalise on doing both. It works some of the time, but in other times my depression crawls into the forefront of my brain and refuses to leave.
On those days, and many of the days that seem better, I need a moment of joy. It’s a simple concept, one that I could never fill a book with, but one that will help me write books and enjoy doing that.
We’re living in the crappiest of times, and many days will be difficult, but even those days can contain a moment of joy if you make sure that they do.
A moment of joy is precisely that: a moment of peace within the storm. A moment of quiet or of music, a moment that is entirely yours.
In a way, it’s about control, about taking back the agency of your life even through a ten-minute window. It’s about finding what you love, what brings sunshine to your darkest morning and making it happen.
If someone asked you to write a list of things that make you happy, something that you enjoy doing, you would have no trouble. I’m sure that if you sat down with a notebook and pen, you’d have a dozen items within minutes.
But how often do you actually do these things? When do you not only allow them into the routine of your day, but actively seek them out?
Not often enough. Times are tough, and Covid is wreaking havoc on our mental health. This could never replace treatment or professional advice, but it can be a tiny step in your day. It can give you the boost you need and provide even a second of relief. We need these sparse moments more than ever. So it is up to you to make them happen. Many things are out of reach now, such as travel, festivals and large gathering. But you can add a spark to your day if you choose to, and the repercussions are visible within a few days of doing so.
Here are examples of moments of joy for you to claim.
I used to love working in cafes, pre-COVID. I’d bring my laptop, my notebook and order a large, foaming cappuccino. I’m fortunate enough to have a dedicated working space in my home, but even then I get stir crazy so quickly, and I miss the tranquil ambience of a cafe.
So I invested in a milk foamer, a whim purchase in all honesty. Whenever I’m preparing to sit and my desk and trudge through work, or choosing to write in my spare time, I make myself a cappuccino.
It’s become a routine, a signal that it’s time to get serious. But it’s also more than that; it’s a small treat within my day. It’s bougie, to say the least, but making a delicious cappuccino in one of my nicest mugs, is something that brings warmth. It’s a moment of joy, a cheap, simple moment of pleasure.
Maybe you drink coffee, but you could buy some lovely organic tea. Delicious smells that you could stop for a second and breathe in. Or you could go for a hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows or whipped cream. It’s both about having something you enjoy and taking that moment. Standing there are the water boils, or the milk foams, and being present, engaging your senses entirely.
Maybe your moment of joy isn’t an object, but rather an activity, one that you often claim not to have time for. Spoiler alert: you have the time, you just need to find it. Carve out a fifteen or twenty-minute window in your day. If you’re searching for where, consider right before you go to sleep, or before you start working, periods we often waste on social media or obsessing over the news.
Do the activity you always claim not to have time for. Maybe it’s going for a walk, having that window of time with no phone, and only your thoughts for company. Perhaps it’s reading a book, and escaping into a fiction world that surpasses our own. I dedicate the end of my day to reading, every single day, even for ten minutes. My friends ask how I managed to read thirty-five books last year on top of writing and my actual job, and it’s just by having a book always planted on my nightstand.
Your moment of joy could be mindfulness, meditation, yoga, baking, or arranging a flower bouquet. It could be attention to your plants, filming tiktoks, writing poetry, journaling, practising makeup.
It does not need to be productive. We need to stop believing that all our time must be constructive and directed at our ambitions, rest and enjoyment are also pivotal parts of existence. Fifteen minutes a day spent dancing, reading poetry or editing photos won’t hold you back. In fact, they’ll likely pivot you forwards as you’ll feel more fulfilled.
Indulge in your guilty pleasures. When there is so much wrong in the world, we must just indulge in the things that bring us joy. If you like something, then welcome it into your day and routine.
A vital aspect of a moment of joy is to make it all about you. Don’t feel pressured to share your moment of joy with others. Social contact is vital, but so is genuine time alone. We often mistake time spent working or being proactive as time alone, when it really isn’t the same. Time alone involves attention and space for your thoughts, feelings, emotions. This will allow you to work through and check in with yourself.
Go for that walk alone, even if you later meet with someone for a walk. Call that friend or family member when you’re cooking or after work, and use this time for yourself. Carve out a period of the day dedicated to you, as otherwise, you’ll quickly find all the possible moments taken from you.
And don’t feel guilty for being selfish. We all deserve a chance to be selfish, plus there is nothing selfish about choosing yourself for a tiny portion of your day.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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