Let’s face it: 2016 sucked the joy right out of our souls. Beloved celebrities dropped like flies, friendships and family relationships changed before our very eyes during a tough election, and Hatchimals turned out to be the biggest disappointment on the planet. It was as if 2016 kept loading up the camel’s back, just waiting for it to break and buckle under the shitshow we all barely survived.
It was a tough year, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be giving 2016 the one-finger salute as I’m propping my eyes open in my jammies on New Year’s Eve. I am not the only one who is ready to kick 2016 to the curb and start finding real joy again. I’m tired of feeling angry, resentful, and powerless to find happiness in my daily life.
For me, 2017 is going to be about finding simple joys amidst the chaos that will undoubtedly ensue in the coming months. I am going to allow myself quiet moments that I create just for me, even if I have to lock myself in my closet to get some peace.
As a busy working mom, I have to be realistic though. I don’t have a lot of room in my schedule for hours on end of blissful joy at a spa or on a deserted beach in Tahiti. But I certainly do have time to squeeze in some of these ideas:
1. Read a book. Well, a chapter, at least.
I’m being realistic here: I’m never going to get to read a book in one sitting, but I can find time to read a chapter a day. Reading brings me joy, and dammit, even if I have to whip my book out while I’m waiting in the carpool line, I’m going to get my bookworm on in 2017.
2. Volunteer. But not for the PTA.
If I learned anything this year, I learned that I love volunteering for the political issues that I value. Volunteering for a candidate I believe in makes me feel empowered, and I will be doing more for the campaigns in my area in the coming year.
3. Say No. A lot.
I’m done with attending parties when I’m exhausted or saying yes to spending time with people who don’t bring me joy. I’m going to say “no” to being overscheduled and “yes” to quiet nights at home, because This Is Us isn’t going to watch itself, people.
4. Smile More.
As trite as it sounds, smiling is contagious, and it really does increase your face value. In the months since the election, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make eye contact with strangers and to smile at them. And not in a creepy stalker kind of way, thank you very much. People don’t see enough smiles during the day, especially since our ever-present phones always force our faces downward. A smile is universal in any language, doesn’t cost a dime, and is worth its weight in gold.
5. Learn people’s names.
Everyone has a story, and everyone has circumstances that brought them to the moment you encounter them in the grocery store or a crowded deli. And when you know someone’s name, it’s harder to be rude or feel disconnected from your community. I recently had a lovely conversation with a cashier at a busy grocery store in New York City. At the end of the conversation, I asked what her name was and her surprise was genuine. We exchanged names, and we both were left feeling uplifted. And I also know the next time I’m in that store, my new friend will be happy to see me.
6. Bite your tongue on social media.
It is so easy these days to become incensed the minute you start scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. Inappropriate memes, inflammatory articles, and opinionated relatives make it hard to simply enjoy recipes and fun pictures of your nieces and nephews. But here’s the thing: No one is forcing you to engage in the rhetoric. Just keep scrolling, or better yet, hide the offenders from your feed. The “Unfollow” feature will save your sanity. Use it.
7. In fact, step away from social media.
Real life is still happening beyond your phone, people. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the birds are chirping right outside your window. Put the electronics down and take a break. Use that time to read a book (see No. 1), volunteer (see No. 2), or do something else that brings you relaxation and reprieve.
8. Cultivate close friendships. With actual phone calls.
Seriously, when was the last time you picked up the phone to “reach out and touch someone”? I personally can’t remember the last time my best friend and I had a conversation that lasted more than 10 minutes because kids and jobs make it next to impossible for us to kibitz and gossip. But I’m going to keep trying. Because as much as texts are hilarious, the sound of my friends’ voices always lifts my mood. And also, the sound of my best friend’s laughter is the best medicine when I’m having a bad day.
9. Have more sex.
Yes, I know you are busy. Yes, I know you are tired. Yes, I know you still haven’t lost the baby weight. Have sex anyway. Because it feels good to connect with your partner and because having an orgasm is a natural stress reliever. Frankly, if we all had more sex, the world would be happier place, just sayin’. (You can also achieve this without a partner as well. Rub one out, ladies.)
10. Let yourself off the hook.
Seriously. No one is perfect, and you certainly aren’t either. It’s okay to admit that you are an okay-enough parent and that, some days, the fact that the kids are still breathing is enough to feel accomplished. The laundry can wait so you can have a glass of wine, and those work emails will keep while you read a book to your toddler. Say yes to the little things. You won’t be sorry.
Let’s raise a glass to finding simple joy in 2017 and leave the dumpster fire that was 2016 behind us. I, for one, am looking forward to a kinder, gentler year. Or at the very least, a year where Betty White stays safe, and we don’t have
kids parents crying about overpriced toys that don’t hatch fast enough.