It’s hard to get back into gear at this time of year isn’t it? Even if we feel fired up by our new year’s resolutions or we’ve successfully been to the gym a few times, the dark, damp, cold days, the rest of winter stretching ahead and the thought of a whole year looming in front of us, full of tiresome commitments can make it very difficult to feel enthusiastic.
Although I DO feel excited about my forthcoming projects and I HAVE got a lot of interesting opportunities to explore, I am also tempted to hibernate under the duvet when the alarm goes off and the sun isn’t even up yet. In my experience, the best way to tackle these feelings is to reward myself rather than try to give things up. Rewards are not about financial outlay or consuming things; they are about making yourself happy in a meaningful and lasting way. They are about joy.
The things that give us joy vary of course and what I find joyful may well leave you cold but that doesn’t matter in the slightest – it’s your joy and you can do it however you like. Joy could be a painting a picture or singing in a choir; it could be tinkering with an old car or building Lego. An executive coach on Woman’s Hour the other day said that she got up increasingly early in order to sit in her garden and listen to the birds, meditate, read and write – after a while she was doing two hours per day and she said it gave her terrific energy and focus as well as aiding stress and anxiety.
And that is the point. If there is joy in your day, or the anticipation of joy ahead, then we feel enthused about everything else. Work can bring us joy of course but what we really need is time away from our usual routine, away from intrusive and stressful thoughts. We need time out to switch off and refresh without feeling guilty that we aren’t doing things we should be. Joy should be wholehearted and all-encompassing, even if it’s only for half an hour every now and then.
Joy is NOT about slumping in front of the television or mindlessly playing games on your phone but it might be about reading or learning a new skill or sitting perfectly still. It is NOT about having a quiet half an hour to catch up on emails or read the business pages but it might be about writing a diary, or gardening or doing yoga. For some of us, it might even be a struggle to identify what gives us joy when our world revolves around getting to meetings, writing reports and keeping the home fires burning. The temptation to collapse at the end of the day is great but if you can imagine the one thing you would drop everything else to do, then that’s your joy and that’s what you should find time to do.
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