Finding joy in difficult situations is like panning for gold in a muddy creek bed. You have to sift through a lot of slop to reveal those shiny nuggets. For two years after being disabled in a car accident, I didn’t see my far-away grandchildren in person. Sharing giggles and stories and watching them grow via Skype were daily nuggets of joy in the mud of my disabled life.
I keep a “Things to Smile About” notebook and desktop file. I record funny lines (tee shirt quips, funny Facebook posts, cartoons, laugh provoking, mood lifting stuff), the blessings of my life, inspirational quotes and phrases. I scanned in the scrapbook of cartoons my mother cuts out of the newspaper for me, and made them my screensaver slide show.
Keep a separate “Can Do” list. Record accomplishments and milestones you’ve achieved since you’ve been disabled. Some of mine since the car accident seem trivial, but they came after months of monumental physical effort and painful therapy: I can cut my food. I can use fingernail clippers. I can wash my hair. I can stand. I can come off of narcotics. I no longer need a bedpan. I can walk. I can go home. I can carry a dinner plate to the table in my left hand. I can drive. I can do my own laundry. Every ‘first time’ after my accident represents pure joy that I remember with vivid clarity, and restores my current ‘can do’ spirit whenever it falters.
Crack yourself (and others!) up. Take funny selfies for online profile pictures. Write jokes on post-its and stick them around your house inside cabinets, on the fridge shelves, in your clothing drawers and closets, to be found later by yourself and others. Sharing funnies lightens everyone’s mood and creates an enjoyable atmosphere.
Become proficient in what gives you joy and share with others. Learn a musical instrument, a language, flower arranging, crocheting, braille, sign language, or get an online degree. Create little mini video recitals, get a foreign Facebook friend or pen pal, give handmade gifts, volunteer using braille or sign language skills, or perhaps publish articles or books about your field of expertise.
Meditate on your joy. Remember the song “My Favorite Things?” I take it a step further. When I’m feeling bad, I stop, close my eyes, take a cleansing breath, smile, and contemplate a specific joy: I hear a strain of music, feel a hug, see every detail of a face, taste pizza, smell ocean air, and revel in the joy, even if only for a moment.