Years ago in my LifeWays training, Cynthia Aldinger asked our class, “What brings you joy, and are you making time for those things?” The question feels simple enough at first glance, but as so many parents and caregivers have experienced, sometimes those joy-filled activities are at the bottom of the to-do list. I’ll be honest, there have been times in our family that have felt like a joy drought. That feeling of depletion always sets off my alarm that it’s time to tap into what brings me joy and to share that with my family. Yes, that’s right, I start with my own needs and let the joy ripple out….and it always comes back tenfold.
Joy is contagious and reciprocal.
Here is my method to bringing back the joy:
- Write a list of all the things that bring me joy from when I was a child all the way to the present moment.
- Circle the things that are the easiest most doable activities. Riding a bike, going for a walk, building a sandcastle or snowman, dancing in the kitchen and puttering in the garden are all easy ways to have fun.
- Grab my calendar/planner and get the easiest things on the schedule in pen. We choose how we spend our time and when we make joy a priority, devote time to these activities.
- Prepare for what your child might need; extra clothes, snacks, gear etc. Think ahead to be sure everyone is comfortable.
- Just do it! And while you are having fun, let that feeling really sink in.
Go ahead and shout a “woo-hoo” and share your feelings with your child.
Our children thrive when we are steeped in joy and levity.
Let that shared feeling inspire and motivate you to revisit the joy list and plan for more adventures. Here are a few more tips:
- Start another list of joy-filled activities with suggestions from the rest of the family.
- Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
- Weave joy into your daily rhythm by doing something easy at home or right out your front door.
- In your weekly rhythm, choose a bigger activity for the whole family.
- At dinner or before bed reflect on the fun and give thanks. We ask around the table, “What was your favorite part of the day?” and often we are surprised at the little things that made a big impression.
Doing the things that bring me joy keeps my cup filled, and sharing those things with my child multiplies that joy exponentially. There is even some brain research that can add further motivation to share these happy moments. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a researcher who has named these shared joyful micro-moments “positivity resonance.” When two people share a positive emotion, it is unfurling across their two brains and bodies at the same time. In these small moments of sharing, she said, “there is one state and one emotion going on—maybe even a miniature version of a mind meld.” Love, from your body’s perspective, is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care. Your body needs these micro-moments of positivity resonance just like it needs good food and physical activity. These micro-moments, research shows, nourish both you and the other person. The more of these micro-moments you each have, the more each of you grows happier, healthier, and wiser.
Joy is an essential nutrient for your whole family. Have fun!
Kerry Ingram is a mother, foster parent, LifeWays and Waldorf early childhood educator and founder of Mothering Arts, an intergenerational group which nurtures mamas and babies in the postpartum year. She finds her joy in being active in mother nature with her family and celebrating the seasons in her community.