In life, every day, month, and year can bring different challenges. But this year has felt especially emotionally taxing. It seems our entire world is being torn apart, filled with strife. People are more divided than ever–between various ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic groups, political groups. Natural disasters caused much damage, making recovery a slow and costly process. Too many innocent people were killed for no good reason. Even from far away, I feel overwhelmed with heartache and worry for our loved ones back home.
Personally, we’ve also had a stressful year. We made our second international move in two years, leaving behind friends, family, and a comfortable and secure existence. We’ve experienced a few difficult months of culture shock. Our new host country hasn’t been what we had expected, and it’s been a lonely journey finding our place here.
In times like this, it’s hard not to feel discouraged and demoralized. It’s hard not to feel angry and frustrated. It’s hard to see the good in life and find inspiration to keep positive.
One thing I’ve found to be helpful in staying positive and raising my spirits is to stay away from the news. In this day and age of the 24-hour news cycle and constant news updates, I find it more difficult to stay away from the news than to keep up with it. I also make a point of reading positive news to remind myself there are good people doing good things and making a difference in this world.
Instead of always focusing on myself and my own “problems,” I also find it much more meaningful to think about how I can make a difference in someone else’s life. Whenever I can, I try to help a friend, whether it’s by watching their kids when an emergency comes up or by doing something for them that they need to get done, but don’t have the time to do. I’ve been encouraging my son to do something nice for someone a few times a week. It doesn’t have to be something big; it can be something as small as giving someone a compliment. For suggestions, I love this woman’s idea of random acts of kindness (she has other great videos on parenting as well).
I’ve also found spending some quiet time in nature to be soothing and rejuvenating. There’s something about connecting with nature that clarifies our mind and our soul, and brings things into perspective.
Something else that I enjoy and that have helped me to renew my determination and stay encouraged is to immerse myself in a good book. There’s also nothing more inspiring than the arts–beautiful photographs, paintings, mosaics, and other works of art; soul-stirring music; and writing. A few nights ago, the three of us wrote and shared with each other haikus that we wrote. We wrote somber and silly haikus that led to reflection and laughter. It was a fun way to connect with ourselves and with each other.
It’s always easier to see and experience beauty and fun in everyday life during the holiday season. Once it’s over and the holiday spirit is gone, however, it is still important to see the beauty and the good in the ordinary–not only for ourselves, but also for those around us.