Monopoly used to spark joy for me—and, well many others. The game as we know it was a Great Depression–era commercial success. Back then, people needed colorful bills and imaginary real estate to feel good. Pretending was placating, and playtime was salvation. And now, amid the coronavirus crisis, many similarly need some new inspiration for how to spark joy to make it through to the other side of this situation.
I thought about Monopoly and knowing how to spark joy for yourself to get through dark times during a welcomingly effervescent conversation with Grace Harry, bona-fide joy strategist and proponent of adult play. (To be clear, that’s “play” as it pertains to innocent, childlike behaviors as a conduit to joy.) While playing may seem frivolous at best to some during such a complicated time, Harry says it’s an important element for survival. “Think about the generations and generations who lived through other difficult times,” Harry says. “The ones who persevered [were] the ones who found the space to find positivity.”
“Think about the generations that lived through other difficult times. The ones who persevered [were] the ones who found the space to find positivity.” —Grace Harry, joy strategist
So since times are bleak but, for a number of us, time itself is aplenty, we can try to find at least a moment for joy and positivity each day. After all, allowing your body and mind to stay present can help protect you from falling into a spiral of anxiety-provoking uncertainty. Via playful methods, Harry says we’ll be able to stay present and spark joy that will signal to the body, “‘You know what? We got this.’” Get specific tips for how to do it for yourself below.
Not sure how to spark joy for yourself? Below, find 5 joy-strategist-approved activities to accomplish just that:
“The reason I put coloring first is because there’s no way you can say you don’t have the tools for it,” says Harry. “I don’t care if you only have a pad and pen at your home-office desk; you can doodle.”
If you have access to coloring books, using them is a great strategy for sparking joy, too. And as a bonus, the simplistic, passive artistic release it allows for doubles as a mindful practice. Research supports that coloring books can facilitate entering flow state, and some evidence supports that the activity may lower stress and anxiety levels. And don’t think you have to be really strict about doing a gazillion rainbow mandalas with pinpointed precision. Get fun with it. “It’s such a wonderful way to lose some time in a creative space—I do it almost every day,” Harry says.
2. Create a “Me” altar
This totally nondenominational altar is for the focus of appealing to you and only you. Maintaining positive energy in our support of friends, children, partners, and others can too often come at the detriment our own self care. With a “Me” altar, you’re really elevating the power of self-love in a concrete, unapologetic way.
“Create a space in your house that you pass a lot—like a little, tiny piece on top of your dresser or a piece of your desk,” says Harry. “Put a couple things there to remind you, every time you see them, of the amazingness of you.”
Maybe this includes a thoughtful letter from a friend, maybe it includes a photo of you looking especially amazing, maybe it includes an award you won or a diploma—whatever it is that makes you feel as incredible as you are, at your highest version of yourself, will work.
3. Write…anything and everything
This joy-sparking tip is one Harry learned from her friend, life coach Lauren Handel Zander: If you’re getting frustrated with your co-isolators, or the tri-daily COVID-19 conversations you’re having via FaceTime, or just uh, all of it, it’s time to get those frustrations out. “Take a piece of paper, look at it, and then do not look at it again,” Harry says. “Let your hand go wild on the page and pull up every single thought you could have to get it out there.”
“I think we forget that it’s not a wrong feeling to be upset, and it’s not a wrong feeling to have anger. So go there—get it out.” —Harry
When you’re done purge-writing, make sure to put away the paper and not look at it again that day. Then do one of two things: Either look at it in a couple days for a new and different perspective or burn it. (Harry recommends the second course of action if you’re someone who’s prone to wallowing, rumination, and holding grudges.) While this one might not feel like happy-making practice in the moment, it does contribute to an ultimately happier you because the whole process of feeling is important.
“I think we forget that it’s not a wrong feeling to be upset, and it’s not a wrong feeling to have anger,” Harrys ays. “So go there—get it out.”
4. Interview your partners-in-isolation
Are you someone who, like me, opted to move back home to their parents’ house for a family quarantine? If so, you may be feeling some, um, regressive, feelings, but there’s a productive and decidedly joy-sparking way to channel your frustrations about it: Pretend you’re from an alien planet. Yes, seriously.
No matter whom you’re sharing space with right now, in fact, this is a great way to put down the baggage you carry for them and act more like a wide-eyed child whose favorite question is “Why?”
“Pretend you’ve never met these people and when you talk to them, interview them a bit,” Harry says. “Ask them questions about themselves that you’ve never asked. With the beginner’s mind, just be curious, as if these are people you’ve never laid eyes on.” This approach can give you a perspective of openness and an objective and renewed curiosity in the people you think you know.
I’m selfishly including this because I’m personally so into Hula-Hooping. As it turns out, Harry shares my affinity for this childhood toy, which just so happens to provide a perfect active break from your lineup of workout videos you may be using.
It keeps you moving without forcing you to think you’re officially and intentionally exercising. Instead, Hula-Hooping transforms working out into recess—and what could be a more joyful break from the doldrums than that?
If you need help reframing your anger during this time of crisis, learn the power of reframing from the Ancient Greek Stoics. And here are a few games you can play virtually, with friends near and far.