Simple Steps to Find Your Joy when Plans Get Canceled
Three ways to restore your well-being in the midst of the unexpected.
Posted January 14, 2022 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods
- Engage in actions that allow you to flow.
- Kindness is good for our well-being.
- Writing gets stuck feelings out of our bodies and onto the paper.
I spent last weekend clearing out junk in the backyard left by a former tenant. As trash was piled, plants were moved to open air, and sunlight beamed onto the ground, everything started to feel healthier in the yard and in me, too. Needless to say, after such a “lightening up” weekend, I was not pleased to learn that Mercury is going retrograde on Friday. For those unfamiliar with the lore of the time of retrograde, Mercury is the God of communication in Greek mythology, so the general idea is that when Mercury is retrograde (appearing to go backward from its usual trajectory) there is a time of disruption. Communication, and its attendant technology get glitchy, leading to crossed wires, frustration, and even hostility. I am not here to convince you this is true, but I am here to write about what we can do when interruptions happen in our lives that we don’t want or expect, and how we can make healthy mental choices no matter what is happening.
Responding to disruption
Like many of you reading, I find that my whole month got disrupted by Omicron. Events got canceled, visitors decided not to come visit, and suddenly the gym felt more like a threat to health than support to it. My life, which had started to move with a bit more speed, is slowing again. I found myself thinking about what I could do to maintain joy and happiness in my life. Here are a few activities that have made a difference:
Flow: Research on the topic of “flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that engaging in activities that send us into a state of flow is a wonderful way to find joy in life. He defines flow in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), as a state of concentration in which the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it for the sheer sake of doing it. Doesn’t this sound like something good to engage in? Find the activity that sends you into a state of flow, and make space to do it. If you don’t have hours for such things, commit to 10 minutes and just do that thing that connects you to flowing, whether it’s surfing, quilting, yoga, chess, or riding your Vespa.
Kindness: I have written a lot about kindness in this blog, but just in case you have forgotten, here it is again. Kindness is doing something positive for someone that you don’t have to do. Try some simple acts of kindness today, such as sending a postcard to someone who doesn’t use email, or leaving a gift for a neighbor. Be creative. Research shows acts of kindness can be as beneficial to you as it is to the person receiving the kindness. In fact, a meta-analysis of 27 experimental studies confirmed that those who engage in kindness report greater well-being (Curry et. al, 2017).
Write your truth: Stopping periodically to reflect on what you are truly feeling, through writing, can be a powerful step towards unlocking mental patterns that may not be serving your well-being and health. In the book, The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron suggests writing “morning pages” every day for several weeks to get all the stuff stuck inside out. I did this many years ago and it was transformative. I am doing it again now.
As we move further into 2022, I hope that you might take one of these ideas and apply it to your life. Whether you are experiencing mercury in retrograde or not, engaging in actions that maintain healthy movement in our work, relationships, and within ourselves can be powerful and meaningful – regardless of what the world brings us next.
Cameron, J., & Goldberg, N. (2016). The artist's way: a spiritual path to higher creativity. 25th anniversary edition. New York, New York: TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Journal of Leisure Research, 24(1), pp. 93–94
Curry, O. S., Rowland, L. A., Van Lissa, C. J., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., and Whitehouse, H. (2018). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 320-329.