It’s hard to be joyful at the moment (Picture: Getty/

The last two weeks have been intense – especially for women.

For women of colour, the treatment of Shamima Begum and Meghan Markle in the mainstream has been exhausting. Then, compounded with the devastating death of Sarah Everard, things have felt worse.

Which is why it’s important to not only take care of our mental health right now in whatever way the pandemic permits, but to also feel happy, and importantly, hopeful.

Our options are limited right now – we can’t pop into the cinema for a bit of escapism, or drink wine in a fancy restaurant with friends to feel better.

But there are small, meaningful acts we can still do to add a bit of joy.

For the Metro lifestyle team, online shopping has bought a lot of gratification (thank you Glossier sale – though we are still waiting for those deliveries).

Great home cooked food, baking, board games and an adorable dog are other things that our team has really appreciated and relied on lately.

Edaein tells us she is thinking about upcoming good news to deal with the times. ‘My sister in law is currently in labour so I’ll have a niece/nephew very soon so you could say new life is giving me happiness’.

Through these simple acts, people are remembering the goodness of every day while everything hurts. We also spoke to some experts about other ways we can experience some small triumphs.

It’s been a tough time for women especially (Picture: Getty)

For Anita*, getting to know an online match is giving her excitement. ‘A new budding romance is giving me hope. Also, doing a live virtual yoga workshop – made me remember what it’s like to be in a room with strangers doing an activity together.’

Writer Tahmina is relying on those endorphins more than ever these past few weeks.

She tells ‘Waking up and doing a dance workout as the first thing I do in my day, after I pray, has brought so much joy.

‘Not only does it get my heart rate up and I feel like I have a life outside of my desk, but it makes me feel delectably silly and simply let go. I’ve been doing Tara’s body workouts specifically. Squeezing in a dance workout always makes me feel such joy.’

Zahra Ahmed, a trainee psychologist and Co-founder of MindScape Consultancy says right now, relying on those happy hormones is so important.

‘Dopamine is known as a reward hormone,’ she tells us. ‘This can be released when completing a task – something on your to do list that you’ve been meaning for a while, exercising, laughter with a friend – so keep sharing those funny memes on Instagram.

‘Cooking and eating your favourite food that you’ve been craving, rewarding yourself and doing something you love such as running a nice bath or having a read of your favourite book.’

Practical things you can do to feel joy

Zara says focus on those happy happy hormones.

Oxytocin – ‘It can also be known as the love hormone: This can be released when you feeling connected with someone such as playing with a dog or baby, hugging a family member, holding a loved one’s hand, cuddling and talking to someone you trust about things that might be worrying you.’

Serotonin – ‘It has said to also be known as the mood stabiliser: Listening to music you enjoy can increase serotonin production, meditation, going out in the sunshine, taking a walk outside. I personally find adult paint by numbers quite helpful here in creating a sort of hyper focused “mediative state”.’

Endorphins – ‘It has been called as the pain killer hormone: it’s released during times of exercise, laughter, dance and eating dark chocolate.
These are all things people can do safely while we’re still transitioning out of the lockdown period.’

Dr Jaspreet Tehara, a practitioner psychologist at Northamptonshire Health NHS Foundation Trust says there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to joy.

But, he says, it’s important for everyone to do these things without feelings of guilt – especially as we’re in need of an injection of joy.

‘We need to approach what we do without a sense of guilt,’ he says. ‘And with a sense of compassion and consideration to ourselves.

‘If you’re going to cook for example – try and take the drive (desire to finish the task) out of it – and focus more on the soothing elements of it – take time to smell the ingredients; approach things with care and consideration.

‘Ultimately this is all about taking time out and slowing down for one’s self or for others with the mindset of soothing rather than completion.

‘Exercising, reading, listening to podcasts/audiobooks, engaging in mindfulness practices, playing instruments, catching up with friends (online or socially distanced when possible)  – the things that bring you inner peace should all be sought – but to alleviate a sense of guilt for doing those things is really important (and a focus) too.’

What things are giving you joy? (Picture: Getty)

Life coach Rupinder Kaur agrees.

She tells now is the time to really amp up self-care. ‘If you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed its easier to feel despondent. Give yourself some time off, nurture and nourish yourself with rest and doing things you love: curling up with a good book, listening to music, a walk in nature, eating something you love.’

Other concrete things you can do include having a gratitude journal, she says.

‘Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it lasts for the next six months. This was shown by Harvard researcher Shawn Achor. There is always something to be grateful for which can be overlooked when things feel tough, maybe it’s a meal you just ate, a friend who is being kind, reading a good book.’

Rupinder adds that the media you consume might be making you feel worse, which might mean it’s time to find more uplifting outlets.

‘Watch shows that are light hearted, comedy centred, things that will make you giggle, soothe the nervous system and feel comforting.

‘Fill the present moment with joy. Make opportunities for play and laughter. This isn’t just for the children! When someone around you is belly laughing theres an increased chance you will too. Joy is contagious.

‘Dress with joy. You can make yourself feel a little better by dressing up in a more exciting way regardless of whether you’re working from home or if no one will see you! Time to get out of the PJs and lounge wear. If the clothes you wear inspire you to feel confident, you’ll feel better, too. Wear something colourful or have fun with jewellery, dress up for no reason!’

After the weeks we’ve had, we certainly deserve all the good stuff.

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