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How to Carve Out Joy When You’re Feeling Isolated


DATE: 09 August, 2021

We were entranced by the lava-like sky as the sun rose behind Sydney's North Head, but in an instant, fear took its place as a fin broke the water's surface two metres to the right of Paul's surf ski. As quickly as the fear had appeared, it turned to joy as one fin became many and a pod of dolphins surfaced, eyeballing us curiously as they escorted us down the harbour for about two minutes.

The exhilaration of the morning hung around for the rest of the day.

Not everyone can, or is prepared to, wake up at 5 am or 5:30 am and paddle in the cold and wintry dark, four times a week. For me, it's one of the ways I carve out time for joy in my life. Exercise aside, being able to appreciate the beauty of Sydney's waterways is mentally nourishing.

How to carve out joy - image of the sunrise in Sydney

What are you doing to find your joy?

It's so easy, in the tedium of working from home, to lose hope and touch with the joyful moments in our lives. But now more than ever, we must carve our own moments of joy – we must make them happen.

Finding joy and maintaining hope are two of the kindest things we can do for ourselves right now. It's too easy to lose sight of the little things that count but we need to make an even bigger, more conscious effort to recognise and appreciate them.

Here are a few simple tips to help spark joy in your every day.

Tips for finding joy:

  1. Call a relative or friend you have been thinking about. A few years ago, I started calling people when I thought of them. I call them straight away or reach out on social media and not only does it give me joy, but them also.
  2. Develop a healthy lifestyle. There is reams of stuff talking about regular sleep, healthy diet and physical exercise but maybe for you, it is as simple as a 10-minute relaxation exercise, meditation or yoga, reading a book about foods which gives you energy, a walk every morning or every evening, taking up something new like Pilates online. Or maybe it's as simple as taking a sneaky 30–45 minute nap on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to refresh your mind and body! 
  3. This last one is probably the most under-appreciated yet the most important of the lot — refocus your attention on the ‘small things' in life and learn to appreciate them. Sunrises and sunsets are my go-to soul food, but I also take time to notice and appreciate the other small things which collectively make a day joyous — the new green shoots on some of the plants in the garden, parents cycling with their kids, a dog's joy and bounding enthusiasm as it's let off its lead, the happy welcome from the barista at the local coffee shop, the smell of the fresh, warm, sourdough bread emanating from the bakery.

“The key is being present. It means you can tune into your surroundings — if you're on your phone or thinking about work, these moments of joy will pass you by.”

Some of us are struggling

It's only natural we have our ups and downs during these uncertain times. Recently I have been chatting with two young men who are battling. But they are learning to be kind and gentle to themselves. They've written down what they are grateful for every day, they've written out their purpose and what they are here to do, and they've reached out every day for the past week to friends and family.

It's amazing how the simple act of writing these things down forces you to rethink what you are about and what is important in your life. They've also discovered that being vulnerable is not a weakness and people will be there for you if you show vulnerability.

Regain control

Lockdown means we have lost a form of control and flexibility in our lives. This combined with social isolation significantly increases stress and can be emotionally exhausting.

It is why it is so important to take back some form of control, and routine is a great way of doing this. It can be as simple as waking up at the same time every day and exercising or meditating or sipping your coffee while you take in the stillness outside; planning your day better i.e., putting in your calendar when you are going to have a break and what you are going to do in that break.

Most of all it is about being kind and compassionate to yourself and to others. Being grateful for what we have and appreciative of the special people in our life.

Tapping into gratitude has an incredible multiplier effect — the positivity it generates feeds on itself.

To finish I'll share a quote I found by the late Dr Wayne Dyer, who was an internationally renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth: 

“Research has shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness. Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!”