Mental Health Matters: What Brings You Joy?
Two thousand and twenty is coming to an end. Many will say, “Thank goodness; it has been quite a year.” Before we get ready to ring in the new year, I’d like to ask you, “What has brought you joy?”
Without a doubt, it can be hard to experience joy when you are struggling with mental health symptoms. One of the primary symptoms of depression is a depressed mood and having less interest or pleasure in things you usually enjoy. The global pandemic has particularly impacted individuals who suffer from mental health conditions. A 2020 research study published in Psychiatry Research found increases in anxiety and depression, and in fact, these symptoms may be a normative response to the pandemic.
People are suffering from food insecurity, unemployment, physical ailments, and the effects of social isolation. Alcohol use and rates of domestic abuse have also risen. We live in unchartered waters, trying to navigate an ongoing crisis that does not have a specific end date or outcome. We are feeling COVID fatigue, and living life through video conferencing is exhausting. The kids are ready to go back to school, yet many wonder if it is safe to do so.
I want to share with you the beauty of recognizing yes, there are so many things that aren’t right, yet there are so many right things.
There are little moments every day that happen between all of the difficult moments. We are lucky to live in such a breathtaking place full of natural beauty. The trees are tall, and the mountains soar. Water flows in almost every direction around us.
If you stop and look, there is beauty everywhere. Nature has never left us amid our worries. Make it a habit to get outside whenever you can.
When things feel out of control and unpredictable, I suggest slowing down and unplugging from technology. Take a walk and say hello to a neighbor. Play with a pet. Cook a meal from a new recipe or spend the day doing yard work. Finding joy in the ordinary can be quite extraordinary.
Taking the time to listen to your family or friends and talk with them about their experiences can bring joy to your heart. I ran into a friend of mine last week. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, but seeing her reminded me of the value of connecting with others and making time for friendship.
Joy is ever-present, but sometimes it is hard to see. Let go of your worries and the fear for just a moment and focus on the joy. Joy is all around us when we open our eyes, ears, hearts, and our minds. May your holiday season be filled with wonder and joy! I wish you the best as you welcome in 2021!
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1(800)273-8255. Help is available
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1(800)662-HELP. Mental health and substance use disorders.
Dr. Skillestad Winans retired from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, after 24 years of service, where she served as the Chief of Psychology Services. She is currently an Associate Professor at Northwest University and a Clinical Supervisor at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. The information in this article does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship, assumes no professional or legal liability, and does not represent the views of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Northwest University, or the University of Washington.