Do you believe joy is possible? Many people I work with feel they passively exist without joy. Depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. may initially cause this, but then it is perpetuated by a lack of engagement in life. People do better when they are actively living. In the last post, we talked about what is the meaning of life and finding your purpose in life. Today we will talk about ideas to get started increasing engagement and enjoyment even if you aren’t feeling well. Active living can kickstart positive feelings and bring in new clarity about life purpose and meaning.
Obviously, it is essential to treat underlying conditions that may be driving the lack of joy and desire to retreat from life. Therapy can help you identify and work through what is holding you back so you can move past and find more enjoyment. But don’t wait until you feel better to step outside your comfort zone and try something new!
Choose active living:
Even if you need to fake it for a while, do something that helps you take a step back into active living. What do I mean by this?
The simple act of choosing to do something positive for yourself keeps you on a path to create meaning and enjoyment in life. Tucking yourself away at home without interaction with others only serves to keep you stuck in your thoughts and current mindset.
Finding your purpose in life:
Remember back to when you felt well and think about what you would have enjoyed at that time. Take some time to reminisce about positive memories and see if you can get started doing one of these previously enjoyed activities.
Or try an idea off the following list. There isn’t one particular thing that holds the magic key to finding your purpose, but these ideas can serve as a launching point. Doing what you always do when you are feeling lousy will continue to get you the same negative results.
Life purpose: 10 Ideas to get you started
1.Volunteer– The library? Hospital as a greeter or transporter? Animal Shelter? Reading or English as a second language (ESL) tutor? Big Brother Big Sister? Nursing Home? Helping others get their GED? Volunteer opportunities are endless, although it can take work to find the right placement. Volunteering enables you to get outside of yourself and your current life circumstances. Helping someone else feel better can do wonders for one’s life outlook.
2. Go to a craft store and pick up any random craft- paint a vase and fill it with flowers, make a necklace, create anything! Even if you are like me and don’t have any natural artistic abilities, it can still be worthwhile to engage in the process.
3. Join a league or a group- Pickleball? Bowling? Golf? Softball? The town gardening club? Choose an activity that helps you be around other people.
4. Plant some flowers around your house or make an arrangement that will greet you when you come home. Make the entry into your house welcoming and cheerful even if you aren’t feeling cheerful inside.
Make your space a cheerful space
5. Pick a bright paint color, new artwork to hang, or colorful pillow for a room you spend time in. Find an old piece of furniture at a second-hand store and re-do it. Try to re-create something you see online that you like.
6. Ask a friend to start walking or exercising with you or join a club. There are walking clubs in some towns, hiking clubs, skiing clubs. Some of these options can be found in the local paper, on the Meet Up app, or ask Google for ideas. Try something new. I just looked in Meet Up and found a local lecture on introduction to mantras, a humanism club, hikes, pickup soccer games, happy hours, women’s golf club events, etc. There were a ton of options!
7. Write: It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece or written for others to read. Write about your day, an observation, an interaction. Keep a journal. Go to a coffee shop or bookstore to write while being around others.
8. If you live near a college, look into the offerings around campus. Often there are events or lectures open to the public for little to no cost.
9. Go out into nature: sit for a while on a bench at the beach or in a local park. Even if you aren’t talking to anyone, you can smile and say hello to the people who walk by. Take some moments to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the beauty around you.
10. Do something nice for someone else. It can be small, large, anonymous, or done to them directly. When we lift others up, we are lifted in the process. Doing things for others can create that spark in ourselves that makes it easier to start stepping outside our comfort zones.
What is the meaning of life?
You may notice that many of the above activities are not focused on a direct soul searching regarding the meaning of life. I believe finding your purpose in life happens with active living, experimentation, engaging your brain and your senses, and slowly rediscovering what brings you joy. If you aren’t out there experiencing life, it can be hard to find what you enjoy.
Get started making active choices for yourself today. Progress comes by taking any step- no matter how small it is.
What are your go-to ways to engage in life when you aren’t feeling well? Have you discovered your purpose in life by trying new things? Tell us your story!
Create your future one step at a time to live the life you love.
You can take charge of your life, create your future the way you dream, and increase your happiness in the process. Even if circumstances are tough, we always have choices, and with choice comes power. Start to identify what you want and take steps to make changes. Allow yourself to dream. Be inspired and inspire others. Create. Love. And have fun.
I have made a guide to help identify areas that you would like to change and steps to take to get there. Everyone benefits from moments of reflection and reassessment of priorities. It is helpful to write out your goals and be intentional with the process you want to take. Create a vision and infuse passion back into your life if it is lacking. Identify your hurdles and find a way over them.
Download this free 10-step guide that will help you take charge of your life and creating the future you deserve.
A version of this article first appeared here.
Dr. Melissa Welby is a psychiatrist that participates in people’s process of discovery, empowerment, and search for satisfaction and happiness. She treats a variety of illnesses including depression, anxiety & panic attacks, adult ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorders), bipolar disorder, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and borderline personality disorder. She is also the current president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Association.She completed her Internship & Residency at Cambridge Hospital, affiliate of Harvard Medical School, 2000 to 2004. Dr. Melissa Welby is Board Certified in General Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2005 to present.