And the People Stayed Home…and found…Joy?

By Jim Van Huysse, HBI’s Executive Director

A sweet little family heart project…

It’s hard not to let the stress caused by the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic seep into our day, much less moment-to-moment.

Whether it’s the 24/7 news cycle…outrage and fear over the inadequacy of governmental preparedness…social media fatigue…financial distress and hardship amplified by shelter-in-place…worry over the well-being of loved ones…isolation caused by social distancing – these experiences are all igniting, growing and spreading an emotional pandemic of its own.

And while there are obvious and valid reasons for concern that warrant a cautious and diligent response, we must also acknowledge our collective human experience and embrace practical solutions that support our social, emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.

Here are some simple things you can incorporate into your daily routine to help “flip your internal script” and find greater peace, comfort, and even joy during this challenging and uncertain time.

  1. Practice something that relaxes and grounds you. Many of us suffered from low-grade stress, often without realizing it, even before the pandemic. Without a relaxed foundation, what you build on top may topple. So take some deep inhalations/exhalations. Take a bath. Give yourself a few moments of silence, away from technology. You can also watch our video featuring a relaxing self-guiding, which starts two minutes in.
  2. Make time for meditation and/or prayer. There are lots of forms of meditation, and all of them can help to let go of unproductive thoughts or emotions. Aside from HBI’s own heart based meditation, one of our favorites is Open Heart Meditation™. Introductory practices are available via webcast.
  3. Get out into nature, to the degree you can. Naturally, we need to follow social distancing guidelines, but that doesn’t mean staying indoors all the time. Walks around the neighborhood, sitting under a tree in your yard or in a park, or just soaking up a little sunshine can have tremendous healing effects. Gardening is also great, even if it’s just pulling weeds!
  4. Get creative, with a purpose. There are tons of examples of folks inspiring others through their creativity, from simple acts like turning their front yards into “teddy bear hunts” to poems and videos like the ones at the end of this post. My wife and three daughters decorated our front window with hearts in the picture at the top of this post. Our shut-in 86 year-old neighbor called us right away to thank us for helping to brighten her day.
  5. Tickle your funny bone. A little levity goes a long way! 🙂 Laughter is even good for your health! If you have kids, there are apps out there to help. There’s hilarious stuff like this sports commentator providing exciting play-by-play for normal, everyday interactions. And there’s no shortage of good-natured, laugh-inducing shows including Schitt$ Creek and Life in Pieces. You can even take things up a notch by inviting your friends to watch with you.
  6. Exercise + Eat well. Getting the blood flowing can really help lift both the physical and non-physical heaviness from us. If you don’t feel you can work up a sweat, even taking a (socially distanced) walk can help. One way or another, just get yourself moving! And while it goes without saying that good nutrition is critical to feeling good, it’s important to remind ourselves, especially when we’re tempted to pour another glass of wine or treat ourselves to sweets. 🙂
  7. Learn a few new tricks. Online education has gained a lot of focus during the pandemic, with many institutions forced to fully migrate their curriculum online. Why not take advantage? Many institutions are offering free distance learning, one of my favorites being UC Berkeley’s offering (which includes “The Foundations of Happiness at Work” among others!). There’s also MasterClass, a paid service that has subject matter experts sharing the secrets to their success in things like cooking, dribbling a basketball, and photography.
  8. Connect with loved ones, virtually. Social isolation can have real consequences, especially if you’re sheltering in place solo. There are tons of video chat apps that can help us reconnect (or stay connected). Zoom is all the rage, and given it can support multiple connections in a “room”, it’s easy to understand why. Saturday we had 11 members of my wife’s family on simultaneously. It was a little chaotic, but loads of fun! And we often forget that our phones are….phones. Just having a real-time conversation can be lovely.
  9. Listen to uplifting tunes. Music soothes the soul…so why not create a playlist via your favorite streaming service (or even your own collection) to lighten your day? There are also lots of pre-programmed playlists out there, like this one. And, if you’re musically talented (unlike me!), you can make your own…and collaborate with others virtually. I love this video made by UC Berkeley’s College of music!
  10. Dance while you do it (or even while you don’t). While you’re listening to those uplifting tunes, you might as well get up and move your body a bit! Have a dance party. Dance with your friends/family virtually. Let your inhibitions be replaced by the freedom and joy of natural movement to music.
  11. Limit social media time, and be positive when you are online. Social media can certainly connect us, but as we’ve all experienced, it can also make us distracted, sedentary and amplify negative emotions. Getting off screens can help reset things. When you’re on your typical social haunt, try to avoid the fear-mongering zone, and read/post things that spread positive vibes, not negative ones.
  12. Be grateful, especially for the little things. Each of us is facing challenges that we could easily complain about. But complaining ultimately keeps us mired in negative patterns and emotions. Break free! Find the silver lining in these tough times by regularly practicing gratitude, especially for the “little things”. Learn more about the research and profound benefits of gratitude in our post.

I recognize and honor that the list of things above may not be easy to do for everyone and in all circumstances. It’s human nature for doubts to creep in, especially when dealing with something of this magnitude with so many unknowns attached.

But I – and my colleagues at Heart Based Institute – truly believe that we can change our outlook, even in extremely difficult situations. And by changing our outlook, we can change what we broadcast, uplifting our family and friends, our neighbors, our communities, our countries, our planet…and beyond.

Lastly, I wanted to share a poem recently written by Kitty O’Meara set to video by, featuring inspiring footage and imagery:

Stay healthy, be happy and know that you are Loved.