Joy is a tiny, little word with a powerful punch
Lately I’ve been thinking about relationships and how aware I am that it is precisely my relationships that help me maintain equilibrium, keep me happy, engaged and an active participant in life. Even when everything around me is in chaos (and isn’t that the case today?), my relationships raise my spirits and, by interacting with them, I easily regain joy. Reaching out to another person – family, friends, colleagues or, even strangers, is the best way to uplift your mood.
So, when I recently read an article in AARP Magazine, I was interested to learn that:
“Research shows that joy is wired into our genes, brain circuits and biology – an integral part of our health equation. And in moments like these, (Covid), it matters more than ever.”
Experiencing Joy – a definite byproduct of positive relationships, makes all the difference in your perspective. In whether you see the cup half empty or half full. Whether you wake up eager for a new day or pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep.
The story of Pygmalion is well known (My Fair Lady). Just viewing this diagram I created some years ago, causes me to reflect on how, or even whether, I spread joy or not. Do I act toward others in a way that positively impacts or influences their beliefs about themselves? Are others seeing me for who I really am? I’m reminded that life is an endless circle of give and take. The words that come out of our mouths hold a powerful punch. It’s so easy to allow the ups and downs of our own lives to influence the way we speak to others, and the words we use.
Joy is influenced by our own actions, and, often, joy, or the lack of it, comes from actions that others exhibit toward us.
The Pygmalion effect also reminds us that if we surround ourselves with positive people who exhibit positivity in both action and words, our own self-esteem is influenced, and the result is we wind up feeling more positive about ourselves.
Right now, I’m thinking about how to maintain joy and positivity (or, at least, not lose it) while we experience a world that is crying out with pain. (I can’t resist the urge here to say, “Help get out the vote! I’ve been writing postcards to encourage folks to vote, especially in swing states on behalf of Postcards to Swing States, a project of Indivisible Chicago Alliance, a 100% volunteer-led 501(c)(4) organization with neighborhood chapters.)
Working from home exacerbates the situation for some with no relief available through normal social encounters. Maintaining distance from our friends, family and colleagues is hard to bear and unnatural for socialized humans.
Yes, I am among the lucky ones and I never lose sight of that. I have food on my table (and I like to cook!), a large screen TV, and my work and outreach fulfill me. I’m able to maintain my clients, mentees and social relationships through Zoom and FaceTime. I’m safe to walk and bike outside. While I live in a high-rise in the city, some live in less populated areas and enjoy even more freedom to use their backyards, driveways and other areas to socialize, often without masks.
While I am well aware that we can choose to express gratitude every day, I’m also aware that we do not all live without fear of violence or abuse, or going hungry or being evicted. The boarded up windows along the streets of my neighborhood, and the homeless seeking funds, remind me that extending kindness is one of the easiest things I can do now to ease someone’s burden.
A study by psych professor, Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that “positive meaning may be the most powerful leverage point for cultivating positive emotions during times of crisis. Emotional resilience – knowing how you can get through a crisis with a little less despair and a little more sanity and perspective – can also lead to happiness.”
What can you draw on to sustain you spiritually and emotionally?
Here are 12 simple things I’ve identified that contribute to my positivity. I hope you have found ways to contribute to yours.
- Listen to music – it releases dopamine which increases feelings of happiness
- Enjoy a zoom dinner or drink with a friend
- Go for a fast 2-3 mile walk (with mask) to get my adrenalin pumping
- Maintain my relationships by calling a different someone every single day
- Reduce stress – play the piano or just move
- Spend a day in nature – go to a forest preserve
- Breathe / Stretch / Practice Pilates
- Read a book that has nothing to do with business
- Savor a glass of wine
- Review films with friends – it gives my screen time purpose
- Learn something new
- Start a project / add a revenue stream
The Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun” is seen as a mood lifter, and indeed, listening to it raised my mood. Lenox Hill Hospital in New York city plays it every time someone recovers enough to no longer need a ventilator or is discharged. The nurses say hearing that song gives them hope.
The best we can do at times like this is to talk about how we feel. It’s okay to recognize your fear and anxiety. Check in with yourself. Ask, “How am I doing?” Acknowledge stress and grief. And, ask others to tell you how they are doing. And when they do, listen with all your heart.
Recently, we interviewed a woman for our podcast who said, “At various times in our lives, often in a single day, we are ‘Leaners, Learners or Leaders.‘* I’ve always known at different times we must be Leaders or Followers. I had never heard the phrase used this way, however, and it made me think. While I tend to lead in most situations and am a life-long learner, I do, occasionally, need someone to lean on. This is no time to feel that you must be the strong shoulders everyone else leans on.
Which leads us back to those relationships and Pygmalion. Positivity helps get us through times like this. Rely on friends, family and colleagues. And, even, seek out a coach. Our strong shoulders and ability to help others shift perspective, may be just what you need to lean on now.
Yours for success, Gail