It’s no secret that COVID-19 has affected our ability to get together and celebrate the holiday season. In absence of our usual festivities, we might start to feel depressed or lonely.
This sadness and isolation can tempt us to use food or substances to cope — and those in recovery may be at greater risk for a relapse.
So how can we actively cultivate joy during a COVID holiday season? It’s not about resisting our sadness, but about focusing on the good in our lives. When we tend to our mental health, we can find ways to feel more optimistic and satisfied regardless of the circumstances.
Create a Plan for Slow or Dark Days
Our slow and dark days existed long before COVID, and they’ll still come around once the pandemic is over. Because of that, we don’t have to be surprised by our negative feelings. Instead, we can proactively develop a plan for how to deal with “down” time. This kind of self-awareness allows us to prevent bad days from becoming bad seasons.
You can fill your plan with ideas for cheering yourself up, distracting from the negative feelings (in healthy ways), and people to contact when you need a boost. In regard to the holidays, we have five suggestions for how to increase your joy, both right now and in the weeks to come:
- Get Moving. Exercise will give your brain and body a shot of endorphins, but you don’t need to make a big effort to enjoy the benefits of movement. Your goal should be to get your blood flowing, stretch, and take deep breaths. Take a walk and practice mindfulness, observing your surroundings and paying attention to your senses.
- Meditate on What Inspires You. Take some time out of your day to practice meditation for just a few minutes. You can think of a word or phrase to focus on, as is typical during meditation, or you can decide to think about something or someone who inspires you. Abandon wayward negative thoughts for one inspirational source.
- Engage in Play. As adults, we forget to play. Sometimes we feel silly taking the time to play a game or create something just for fun. Whether you choose finger painting or virtual farming, give yourself some space to play and learn.
- Help Someone Else. When we feel down, we often get introspective about our feelings and thoughts. This can turn into a cycle of self-focus that gets increasingly more negative. Take the opportunity to step outside of how you think and feel by helping someone else. Take groceries to a friend’s doorstep or make cards to send to family and neighbors — or even people you don’t know, like elderly individuals who are unable to have visitors because of the pandemic. You will feel better, and so will they.
- Intentionally Focus on What’s Good in Your Life. We often don’t see how many good things are in our lives until something is taken away — or until we choose to focus on them. You can easily feel more grateful and joyful when you recognize the value of what you already have. To do this, Greater Good Magazine suggests the Three Good Things exercise, where you write down three good things that happened to you each day in a journal dedicated to that purpose.
Remember, these exercises are not about denying any of your feelings of depression or loneliness. Instead, they’re designed to help you move through them and into feelings of joy. We can appreciate and observe our emotions without judgment, whether positive or negative, and allow them to take their course. Then we have the opportunity to choose what we want to focus on.
Reach Out to Someone If You’re Struggling
If you find that your sadness is debilitating or you have started using substances in order to cope, it’s time to reach out to someone for support. Get in touch with a friend, family member, or counselor so that you can begin feeling better. Depending on your situation, it may be time to have a telehealth session with your primary care doctor to see what steps can be taken to improve your mental health and overall well-being. No matter how you feel, you’re not alone! There are people who are ready and willing to help you find a path to wellness.
Help for Addiction and Mental Health Issues at BeWell Network
BeWell Network is a family of evidence-based treatment centers. We help individuals suffering from addiction find the path to recovery, offering customized treatment experiences for the restoration of the mind, body, and spirit. If you or a loved one is seeking help for an addiction or mental health issue, please get in touch with our team today. We can assess your situation and recommend treatment options, verifying your benefits for free. We have a no-hassle billing process and are committed to providing treatment designed specially for you.