2020 Mental Health Toolkit, Part 3: Joy
As we bring this intense, challenging year to a close, how can you best support the mental health of yourself (and possibly your clients)? We’ve previously explored the inner resources of acceptance and gratitude; the holidays are a perfect time to implement more joy, especially in the midst of an especially charged Christmas season!
Now that the big day has passed, the presents have been opened, and we are left in the quiet aftermath of the season, where do we go next? Do we boomerang into obsessing about our weight, jumping on the bandwagon to “get back on track” and “shed those holiday pounds”? Or is there perhaps a little quiet space for deeper reflection about this past year, instead of just pinging from one amped up focus (holiday!!!) to the next (new years!!!)?
There’s a reason that many spiritual traditions emphasize having a “beginner’s mind” or “becoming like a little child”. Yes, it’s good to grow as humans, to become wise as we – hopefully – evolve from life’s experiences & lessons.
But it’s also important to stay humble… to remain authentic… to claim the magic, wonder, and joy of simple everyday experiences, like children do. One of the greatest blessings I’ve received from parenthood is seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes: remembering how precious and amazing so many ordinary daily experiences are, that we tend to take for granted as adults.
When she was about three years old, she loved to feel the sensation of her hair on her bare back. It was such a perfect example of something that we don’t even notice as adults, yet it is really a miracle: the sensory experience of noticing textures against your skin.
The smell of a tangerine as you peel it. The notes of music that moves you. The sensation of drinking hot chocolate or coffee on a cold morning: both the taste on your tongue and the feeling of warmth that seeps into your hands from the mug.
Over the holiday break, our family watched the movie Soul, newly released on Disney+, and it perfectly captures this notion: that the meaning of life might be not so much about our grand purpose of doing – but rather taking in, with mindful gratitude and joy, the multitude of experiences we get to have as human beings.
Even if you don’t have kids (or don’t think you’re into kids movies), check it out, if you can. The perspective it offers is a beautiful way to not only cultivate more joy in your own life; it can also greatly enhance your ability to serve your clients, especially in these intense times.
We will all be dealing with the mental health fallout of 2020 for decades to come, especially for frontline medical workers, who are still experiencing intense daily secondary trauma. Your job as a mental health clinician (or someone who supports clinicians) will be more vital than ever over the coming months and years.
Whether it’s to directly help your clientele, simply gird yourself up against burnout, or just try to make the world a better place, why not add a few more resources to your toolbox, like learning to cultivate more joy? It can only serve all of us, as we look forward to creating a better future, day by day, step by step.