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Finding Joy in Dark Times

By February 2, 2017September 25th, 2019One Comment

A lot has been written about staying resilient and practicing self-care. We’ve even written a few posts ourselves.

These articles (and many others) are excellent. They are useful, and they cover a lot of different bases. I personally have been utilizing every resource and list I come across, adding new pieces to my self-care repertoire.

Sometimes, though, the tips they provide are not enough. When things feel (or are) particularly terrible, when the world doesn’t just feel overwhelming but dangerous, I need to find and cultivate joy.

Of course, joy can be almost impossible to find during dark times. When I’m anxious or scared, I often struggle to remember the things that make me smile, the things that give me comfort.

But those are also the times when it’s the most crucial that I seek out joy. It can seem contrary – trying to be happy when things are decidedly not – but it may be a key to resilience. Making time for the things and people we love is not only good for self-care, it can also energize us in our work as agents of change because it reminds us what we’re fighting for.

If you’re struggling to find joy, here’s what’s been helpful for me:

  1. Scheduling Social Media Time. I love social media – it’s literally my job. But because it’s so addictive in how it delivers information (especially when it’s emotionally charged information), I’ve found myself ignoring other activities just to keep reading and sharing. I use apps like Freedom to limit my time on social media, which forces me to find different, more joyful ways to spend my time. (PS – Pinterest, while not entirely apolitical, is a great way to waste time without a ton of emotional labor.)
  2. Reaching Out to Others. I’m pretty contemplative, so when I’m stressed out, I spend a lot of time “in my head.” However, I’ve discovered too much inward focus actually stresses me out more. Talking to another person about how I’m feeling (as opposed to talking about the facts of what’s going on in the world) reminds me that I’m not alone, that I’m loved, and that I’m resilient.
  3. Breathing Mindfully. Another trick to get myself out of my head is mindful breathing: I breathe in for 5 counts, and out for 6. Focusing on my breath causes me to be present in the moment, which calms me down, and releases the sense of urgency keeping me from allowing myself to do something that makes me happy.
  4. Building a Wall of Joy. At a recent staff meeting, we listened to this song, and wrote down as many things that bring us joy as possible before the song ended. Then we shared a few of our favorites with each other, and hung them up in the office as a reminder of all the things that make us happy.
  5. Letting Go of What I’m “Supposed” to Do. It feels like I should be spending every waking moment doing something: calling, marching, writing, posting. But not only do I not need to do everything, I can also engage in a lot of different ways, including ways that bring me joy. Creating art, singing, even just being playful can be acts of resistance, while also being fun.

How do you find joy in dark times?

One Comment

  • Amanda says:

    So crucial more than ever. I often wonder what it’s like for those of us separated from our family, our history, our joy when we are fighting against systems that take so much. Sometimes the shift for myself is easier than other times, and noticing this shift helps me recognize the soil around me and what I can do to make it even more fertile to what I’d like to see grow. Thanks for this post, joi. Thanks for the reminder that there are active ways that deserve time and space in our lives to move through the fight.