Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Repeat after me, "Joy is Resistance, Joy is Survival!" In psychology, one of the most common thinking errors we find people falling victim to is all or nothing thinking. In the most non-technical terms, it's basically when we act as though life is black and white. It’s when we are quick to lump stuff into a dichotomy-- like forcing a decision about whether someone is smart or dumb, or pretty or ugly, or good or bad. It’s an easy trap to fall into because it requires much less energy than accepting the truth. And the truth is that life isn't all good or all bad. It's a beautiful mixture of all sorts of things that we can experience all at the same time (the good, the bad, the ugly). Our capacity for experiencing emotion is huge, and when we face challenging times (like living through a double pandemic) it can be your greatest weapon. So, while there is no denying that there was some bad and ugly in 2020, what else is true? In what ways were you able to experience good and beauty? If the good stuff didn’t happen naturally (and sometimes it doesn’t), it’s important that you create it. You see, the good stuff is our armor against the bad and how we ensure we live to fight another day. Going through a hard time is no excuse for not also creating moments of joy. It’s not self indulgent, and it’s actually not even optional. It's simply about survival! Research proves that moments of joy begets more joy (ain’t that something)! Just like interest in the bank, joy compounds over time and leads to a more fulfilling life. So, no matter what 2021 brings, remember this one thing, aim to experience a moment of pure joy every single day! Below I’m sharing 52 of my favorite ways to create joy-- one for every week of the year. P.S. save the ones that are less pandemic friendly till later in the year (fingers crossed)!
1) Get yourself a very large and vibrant bouquet of fresh flowers (whatever is in season)!
2) You don’t have to sit still to meditate. Try a walking meditation in the middle of your day to keep your stress at bay. Instructions here.
3) Check out your favorite comedians’ social media page and get in a few good belly laughs! Trevor Noah never fails for me!
4) Trap walking- yup it’s exactly what it sounds like. Suit up and grab your earphones. Power walk the block while listening to your favorite trap music.
5) Change your passwords to be your mantra. Take a password you use regularly (like the one you use to unlock your laptop), and change it to an affirmation. For example, if your mantra is "I am enough every day," use a combo of letters, numbers, symbols, and words like: IamEnoughED#badB! Repetition is a powerful tool.
6) Order a puzzle (a hard one with over 1000 pieces) and work on it throughout the next few weeks (or days if you’re fast). Work on it alone or include family. You'll feel proud when you finally finish and the concentration it takes to complete is a good exercise in mindfulness.
7) Bake (or buy) a single serving of your favorite dessert! Savour every bite or share some with a loved one (but only if you really want to).
8) Go for a drive—no destination required. Roll the windows down and turn the music all the way up.
9) Do a random act of kindness for a close friend or family member.
10) Spice up your sex life! Try something different in the bedroom (while being safe, of course!). I know it feels taboo to talk about, but you deserve pleasure. Start by reading this blog on pleasure worthiness by psychologist, Dr. Candice Nicole.
11) Try a new drink at a coffee shop you've been meaning to visit (you know, the one you flagged on Yelp last year). Close your eyes, sip slow, and really experience what you purchased. Consider yourself a food critic and pay attention to all the details. It's a great exercise in mindfulness.
13) Spend some time with your mentee who wants to be just like you! Young people truly are our future and they can remind us to be hopeful. Impart your wisdom onto a young mind and watch your heart melt as their eyes light up with inspiration. It’s good for them, it's good for you, and it's great for our future.
14) Sit Down! Take a mental health day and call out sick from work. Yes, it's OK to call out even if you're working from home and don't have anywhere to go.
15) Sign up for an exercise class you've always wanted to try– even if it's expensive. And don't forget to actually go to the class (wink wink, I see you).
16) Blast your favorite music and sing at the top of your lungs to a song that inspires you. Don’t worry about your neighbors-- they should consider themselves lucky to attend your concert for free!
17) Take a 24 hour break from the news cycle and all social media. Alert those in your house of your plan and ask them to help you stay away. No news talk or consumption for 24 hours (or possibly longer). You can task one person with breaking your pact if and only if the revolution starts, but that's the only exception!
18) Order lunch from one of your favorite restaurants. Most of us wait until dinner to get takeout, but a mid-day burst of joy should always be on the menu.
19) Think of 3 people who have shown you motherly love in some way and send them a letter of appreciation. If they are no longer living, write the letter, say a prayer over it, and tuck it away somewhere special. Expressing gratitude is an awesome way to care for yourself.
20) Simply sit outside for 15 minutes allowing the sun to kiss your gorgeous skin!
21) Sometimes self-care is adding something into your life and sometimes it's taking things away. Set healthy boundaries and decline that Zoom party invite you don't really want to attend and enjoy the benefits of reducing your screen time.
22) Research up and coming artists and start following their journey. In 2020 I started following @thepiperjonesmusic on IG and I'm obsessed! There is something about pure talent that nourishes the soul.
23) Check out a local art gallery or antique shop and browse aimlessly around taking in all the artifacts.
24) Try a new scrub and do a full body exfoliation. Your skin will feel so good in your sheets! The Black Girl Doctor staff loved sampling Beloved Box products last year.
25) Come up with a new favorite drink (or drank) recipe. One of my favorite dranks is a spicy mango jalapeno margarita. But if that doesn't tickle your fancy, check out @thebourbonbohemian for some truly magical concoctions (you are welcome in advance).
26) During the summer months, use the air conditioner more than normal (even if the bill is gonna go up a little). You deserve to be comfortable... indulge in cool air.
27) Plan to celebrate Juneteenth this year. 2020 was hard for Black people and Juneteenth is a day to honor our ancestors who endured for us to be free. It is a time to rejoice in all that is good about Black culture, food, music, and history. Check out this article for ideas.
28) Have a full out praise and worship session in your house. Remember, praise confuses the enemy!
29) Get rid of two items in your physical environment that make you feel bad or uncomfortable. This could be anything from an unflattering piece of clothing to a "friend" on social media.
30) Try a new hair style. This is a sure bet way to put a little extra pep in your step. One of my sisters got a new wig in 2020 and embraced a whole new alter ego. Apparently I have a sister named Trixie now lol!
31) Implement a daily gratitude practice like identifying something you are grateful for each morning while you brush your teeth. Remembering and acknowledging the good in our lives is a powerfully positive action.
32) Skip, jump, hop, or frolic (yup, I said frolic). Basically, if it makes you feel like a kid and a little silly, it can be a mood booster. Even just a minute of child-like activity can cause a positive chemical surge, especially if you're feeling stressed. Check out this twitter thread of a Black man frolicking for the first time lol!
33) Plant something. Whether you have a huge backyard or only space for a single planter on your window seal, stick your hands in some dirt and bury some seeds of hope (that will manifest as flowers, or tomatoes, or cilantro, or avocados, you choose).
34) Stretch. Sometimes all you need is a good 15 to 30 second stretch to give yourself a refresh. Be intentional about doing a full body stretch every day.
35) Host a tea party with your closest girlfriend, or just for yourself. Get fancy teas, little treats, and pull out the good china. Alternatively (if you aren’t the party planning type) you can visit a tea room. Try a local business or RSVP for an extravagant high tea at a luxe hotel.
36) Engage in long and more intimate conversations with older family members. For example, you could interview a parent or grandparent about their lives and stories of resilience. Alternatively, you could record your own stories and give the recordings to family members as a gift (a radical healing idea from this article).
37) Try a mindful listening exercise. It's a quick activity that allows you to ground yourself in the present moment and center your thoughts. Take a few seconds and sit back, breathe deeply, close your eyes, and identify 4 things you can hear. Listen really hard to all the sounds around you, even if that's just the hum of the refrigerator or the faint sound of your breath escaping your nose..
38) Plan a traditional Sunday dinner and go all out with the prep and presentation. Tell your fam to dress up for the occasion or no greens for them!
39) Volunteer. Challenge yourself to give in a way that is bigger than you ever have before. There are so many people in our community hurting at any given time, and something magical happens when we are able to see beyond our own needs. We become more centered, more grounded, and more connected to our own humanity. Find a way to volunteer in your community and go BIG!
40) Did I hear you say wardrobe makeover? At the start of a new season (or pretty much any time) treat yourself to a wardrobe update. If you are mainly working from home, you still get to participate. You can spruce up your date night attire and get a few pieces of loungewear. Looking good isn’t everything, but it sure does help. That jolt of happiness you get when you love what you see in the mirror matters!
41) Watch Black films (preferably a happy one). Seeing yourself reflected in art can be extremely grounding, and a good drama can help you escape— even if just for a little while.
42) Delegate something on your to-do list. Pick something you could do, but reeeaaally don't want to do and delegate it to someone else. I realize this might mean you need to hire someone to do it, but even if you’ll need to go back to doing it next month, if giving yourself a little break will make you smile, go for it! (Did I hear someone say housekeeping?)
43) Plan a mini (or maxi) vacation and get out of town. Indulge in bougie accommodations and plan to visit some of the top tourist attractions.
44) SIT DOWN! This is not an accident, this one deserves to be on the list twice. Take a few mental health days off of work when things start to feel heavy.
45) Dig through a box of old memories and get all nostalgic. Send pics of what you find to loved ones and see how it warms their heart.
46) Buy something special for yourself from your favorite Black-owned business. You’ll get something nice and you’ll feel good supporting fam.
47) Redecorate. Changing up the aesthetics of your space can usher in new energy. Consider hiring an interior decorator or asking a friend to help you create a vibe.
48) Explore a local attraction that you’ve always wanted to check out but never got around to doing. Art, botanical gardens, and wine tasting rooms are perfect examples.
49) Deck the halls during the holiday season! When you are surrounded by a joyful environment, good tidings will inevitably rub off on you. Go for bold color, twinkling lights, and amazing scents.
50) Read a good novel. You do still remember what books are right? Pick up a physical book and escape into a fantasy realm letting your imagination wander away from your day-to-day responsibilities.
51) Reconnect with an old friend. Just out of the blue and for no other reason than to say hello, call someone you love but don't speak to often, and catch up.
52) Intentionally make a new friend. Call or text that person who you think is awesome but is technically more of an acquaintance than a friend. Propose a friendship by asking, “hey, can we be friends? Like real friends?” Most people desperately want to be in close relationships but are too afraid or feel too awkward about initiating. New friendships are exciting and can bring so much joy. Share your heart with someone new!
And there you have it, 52 ways to create joy no matter your circumstance. If you remember nothing else, remember that you have the innate ability to spark joy in your life no matter what. And not only do you have the ability to do this, it just may be your greatest act of resistance against all that tries to hold you down.