Happy Juneteenth everyone. Today and every day, I’m honoring my ancestors whose strength and survival is the reason I’m here. I thought this would be the perfect day to share 10 ways you can seek joy when you feel the heaviness of the world’s issues and personal issues on you. None of these suggestions are substitutions for therapy at all, as therapy helps you far more extensively than just finding joy. These ways are to help you get some smiles and stillness when you really need it.
1. Meditate or pray
This is a great place to start after you acknowledged the emotions you’re having, and a moment of stillness can help clear your mind. After dealing with chaotic events last year with burnout and imbalance between work and writing, I started the routine of 30 minutes each morning of mindful meditation. At night, I would have my conversations with God. Prayer, at times, is looked down upon because there’s this assumption that people only pray to wish for change and not proceed with an action. At least for me, it’s really a conversation I have with a higher power that helps me find the clarity and tools to make those actions. With all that to say, these two things will help when your mind is racing. Calm is my favorite app to use for meditation.
These times, especially, it’s important to unplug and center back into your own surroundings. Social media is great for spreading important information quickly, but it’s also a source of the trauma that we’re experiencing—and we don’t give ourselves space to process all the anger and sadness. I experience guilt sometimes when I’m away from my phone for hours because of FOMO (fear of missing out), yet it feels so good to take a break from it all and place my attention to the books on my shelf, and the trees outside.
3. Revisit funny moments or platforms
I love to revisit things that have made me laugh, especially films like Rush Hour 2 and Girls Trip. Most recently, I came across a portfolio of stories and essays I completed for my 12th-grade creative writing class. One story was a conversation between my Android phone and my iPod Touch, which was corny and ridiculous, but it reminded me how imaginative my young mind was eight years ago.
4. Listen to music
Since April, I managed to attend D-Nice’s Club Quarantine on Instagram Live over 50 times. I’ve also been watching 9th Wonder and Questlove’s live streams because of their stories and style of deejaying. I’m a proud nerd when it comes to music, and it’s been a consistent routine to listen to it since I was little. Just 2-5 minutes of a song takes me away from the thoughts of trauma and pain, and I dance, pay attention to the drums and percussions, and hear uplifting lyrics from my favorite artists.
5. Revisit an idea you started and didn’t complete
I know you have a project or idea that you started either last week or a few years ago that you had to put on the back burner. Think about them again, and remember how passionate you were during that starting point. See how much joy it’ll give you when you resume them.
6. Talk to someone on the phone
Hear me out, I know some people do not like talking on the phone, and I understand—some things can be stated over a simple text message. However, I love being able to hear someone’s voice and spend a few minutes and even hours laughing and learning with them. I know specific people who are there to just listen when I need to talk through things, and you, too, should experience that. Video chats have been incredibly popular since the rise of the pandemic, as a way to connect with loved ones from afar, and that alone tells you how much we crave much more than text on the screen.
7. Enjoy your food (literally)
When you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, do you ever analyze every taste your experiencing? If you have vanilla ice cream, do you ever just take a moment and appreciate the bursting flavor of vanilla extract and sugar? Growing up, I remember my mother telling me to turn the television off, and sit down and eat—and it wasn’t until adulthood that I understood the importance of it. I still have a bad habit of eating food and needing to watch a video or scroll through my phone, or even working. In those moments, I don’t even notice the consumption of eating, or how quickly I’m eating, until it’s all gone. It may feel awkward at first if you have that habit as well but avoid your phone or distracting devices. You’ll appreciate your food so much more.
8. Take pictures
Some days when I’m feeling down or extremely bored, I feel the urge to get up and breathe in the fresh air. My favorite activity is to walk through my neighborhood park, look at the trees and blooming flowers, and take pictures of them. I’m no photographer, but something about capturing a peaceful moment I’m witnessing brings me joy. I’ve also done mini video journals of myself, talking about what I’m looking at right now, how I’m feeling, and what I’m looking forward to that day. Try that, whether on a nice humid day, or a calm rainy one. There are waterproof phone cases out there, you know.
9. Learn a skill you always wanted to learn
Last Sunday, a friend shared a post about a free cornrow braiding class on Instagram happening that day, and I immediately signed up. At the beginning of April, I told myself that if I learn how to cornrow during this pandemic, my life will be forever changed. Just look:
I really hope to come out of this social distancing time knowing how to cornrow my own hair.
— Serina (@serinagousby) April 18, 2020
Two months later, I’m taking the time to learn, and it was successful. Naza Beauty, a protective-styling salon in CA that specializes on coily and kinky afro-textured hair, facilitated the three-hour zoom class, and the instructor’s patience and brilliant way of explaining each step—from parting, arm position, hand placements, to grabbing hair through each braid, made so much sense to me. Not to mention that the class started with a meditation session. So much joy. I’m not an expert yet, but it felt great to complete a skill I’ve always wanted to do.
10. Share your joys with others
One of my favorite features on Instagram is the story feature, and if you follow me on my personal page, you know that I use it quite a lot. For years, I’ve mainly shared favorite music I’m streaming, or share video clips that made me laugh. It feels weird to indulge in joy alone sometimes, so being able to share a few moments online to help someone who hasn’t been feeling all that joyous gives me comfort. The feature has definitely been a place to share my frustrations as well, but we all have a balance in between.
I hope one or a few of these ways can help you in your journey through heavy times that we’re experiencing. Let me know how you’re seeking joy today or tomorrow. As a Black woman this week, it’s been difficult to process everything, and I’m taking days at a time to recognize the pain and frustration in order to make way for some smiles. I hope you can too.