I owe TikTok an apology.
Back in March, when COVID-19 first entered our lives, I believed that the only way to keep my family and me safe was to completely isolate us from everyone and everything. It was a miserable time for all of us.
A couple of weeks into the lockdown, Catherine, my eight-year-old, asked if I’d ever heard of TikTok.
“Yes, I’ve heard of it,” I responded apprehensively. I knew where this was going.
“How about we download it?!” She asked enthusiastically. At that point, I would have done just about anything to make that little one smile. She was no longer going to school or seeing any of her friends, so she was feeling pretty down.
“Sure,” I said. We downloaded the app.
I thought it was a stupid app that couldn’t possibly have any positive impact.
How wrong I was.
Each evening for fifteen minutes before she went to bed we would watch videos together (we called it our “TikTok Time”). We’d crack up at other peoples’ silliness and creativity. (Of course, I had my finger on the “skip” button should an inappropriate one begin.)
I never expected it to bring us as much joy as it did.
I think we can all agree that on the surface there doesn’t seem to be much to be joyful about these days. Everywhere we turn there’s anger, division, and hostility. It’s easy to become absorbed by it and only see the negativity. Consider the possibility, however, that we can discover more joy with just a few simple strategies. You see, the key to living a happier life is to incorporate “bursts of joy” into it regularly. The more bursts we create, the happier lives we have.
While it’s certainly easy to do this during the good times, it’s much harder to create bursts when we’re navigating through tough times like these. It may be harder, but it’s not impossible. Here are three simple ways to help you do it.
Identify Your “Bursts of Joy”
What’s something that consistently brings a smile to your face, cracks you up, or puts your brain into relaxation mode? Perhaps it’s listening to your favorite podcast.
Or turning on some quality music from the 90s and getting funky.
Or rewatching your favorite episode of “Friends”.
Whatever it is, and no matter how silly it may be, find ways to incorporate more of it into your daily routine. I get a burst of joy from listening to my favorite singer – Barry Manilow. I know that when I hear him sing all about how he “can’t smile without me” I’m going to start singing along and for a few minutes I won’t be thinking about whatever it is that’s currently stressing me out. During my morning walks, I’ll intentionally pause NPR and listen to a few Barry songs. Find ways to implement whatever it is that provides those bursts into your daily routine.
Think you know everything that could possibly bring you those bursts? Maybe you do….but then again, maybe you don’t. If there’s something you’ve never experienced, or haven’t done in years, consider giving it another try.
Never could I have imagined that TikTok could be something that would bring my little one and me some much-needed sunshine on what were otherwise very cloudy days.
What about you? Remember, we’re not the same people we were ten, five, or two years ago. Heck, we’re not even the same people we were six months ago! You owe it to yourself to occasionally dip your toe into something new to see if it could bring you some joy. Be open to the possibility that you could find a burst from something that you never previously enjoyed. Like me, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Recognize Your Awesomeness
We all have those things in life that we’re not that great at. I’m a terrible cook, for instance, but what I lack in culinary skills I make up for in other ways, such as with my impressive bowling technique or my amazing sense of humor.
Too often we’re so busy focusing on what we can’t do all that well that we totally overlook the things that we’re great at. Take a minute and think about your awesomeness – I guarantee that you have talents, abilities, and gifts that not everyone has. And don’t just look at the surface stuff.
Are you raising kids? You’re awesome: sometimes I feel like that’s the hardest thing in the world to do (especially during a global pandemic.)
Are you a marathon runner? You’re awesome: I can’t even run a few hundred feet without getting a side cramp and having to walk.
Are you the person that your pals consistently reach out to first when things go sideways because they know you’ll always be there? You’re awesome: true friends aren’t easy to come by.
Similarly, look at all of the challenges you’ve pulled through over the course of your life. Think about a time that seemed pretty hopeless yet you persevered and came out of it on the other side. There’s both pride and joy to be felt in that strength.
I’ve always struggled with OCD and anxiety, and when COVID first started my fears spiked to the point where I became paralyzed with fear to leave the house. After a few months, when it became clear that we didn’t know how long we could be in this situation, I recognized that I needed to find a way to function during this stressful time. I needed to be ok to go to the grocery store, the bank, the gas station…..you know, to do all of the normal things that have to get done in life. I reached out for some professional help because I couldn’t get there on my own and am now able to do these simple tasks, which is a huge accomplishment. In fact, it makes me feel pretty darn awesome, especially when I think about where I was just a few short months ago.
Take a moment to reflect on the challenges you faced head-on and were able to get through, too.
Finally, Embrace Commonalities
I’m always on the lookout to find commonalities and make connections with people, and I challenge you to search for surface ways to connect with others too. Parked next to another Subaru, which you also happen to drive? Make a comment to the other driver about how you’re actually looking forward to winter because you know you’ll be able to handle those snowy roads with no problem. Or when going to pick up a pizza share a comment with the lady in line behind you about how great it is to not have to cook tonight.
How can something so minor matter so much? Because sharing even a brief connection with someone about something (anything!) creates a human connection and a burst of joy for both of you.
Joy can also be found in acknowledging someone for their efforts. I truly believe that most of us are doing the best we can under these ridiculously difficult circumstances, and a small gesture of appreciation can go a long way. A kind word of gratitude can make a huge impact on someone who’s working hard to do their best. For example, my kids are currently doing school via a hybrid learning model, and I know how hard their teachers are working to create both online and in-person lessons. When I received an email yesterday from my little one’s teacher letting me know that she’s missing an assignment (I told you parenting during a pandemic is ridiculously hard), I added a P.S. to the end of my email response thanking her for all of the hard work she’s doing and how much I appreciate her efforts.
And when I was in the grocery store the other day picking up some essentials, I thanked the guy stocking the shelves. It can’t be easy to be working there these days – I’m sure not all of the customers are understanding when the store runs out of Clorox wipes, or when he has to ask someone to please put their mask on in order to be in compliance with our State mandate. I’m sure he’s doing the best that he can, and a word of acknowledgment can make a huge difference in his day.
The bottom line is that we have the ability to create and spread bursts of joy for ourselves and for others. It just takes a little bit of thought. Remember to intentionally add bursts of joy to your day, acknowledge your awesomeness, and consider making simple human connections with others. I’m sure that if you put these strategies into play you’ll be able to make this difficult time a little more joyful.
As you can imagine, a few weeks after downloading TikTok and watching other people’s amazing videos, Catherine asked if we could make one too. Once again, I held my breath and allowed it because I knew it would bring her some joy. And that it did. Even though we only had seven followers at the time, that kid produced some pretty hilarious videos for those lucky seven people! It brought her a ton of joy and helping her feel those bursts brought some for me, too.
Thanks, TikTok. I owe you one.
Lisa Dimino White is a motivational speaker, coach, and author of Bursting with Happiness. Lisa is inspiring others to actively seek out and create more joy for themselves, their communities, and all of humankind at joyseeker.com.