Joyful November

Even with the beautiful fall weather, I can pick up on anxiety at work and even from teachers and parents at the recent meet-the-teach night for our daughter, who is in Grade 12. Another factor is a lot of people are sick. I hear coughing on public transit and people choosing to work from home to get over an illness. Whether the common cold, the seasonal flu, or Covid: contagious organisms seem to be flying around.

Did you know you know that emotions are also contagious?

Emotional states transmit from person to person. We all have this lived experience, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider this type of contagion. It’s a powerful concept to help navigate circumstances that we have no control over (like November or whatever your least favourite thing is).

We can pick up on the anxiety and stress of others. We can be infected. Or, we can be the ground zero for infecting others with a sad, angry or fearful state. But the good news this is also true for positive states like joy and calm.

Canada is a bit of a gloomy place in November. In addition to the drag of being sick and seasonal changes, there are other factors like:

  • the crunch of year-end work deadlines (people in the office can vibrate with anxious energy, especially if deadlines are looming or year-end targets seem at risk),
  • the holidays approaching at warp speed,
  • the sadness to see summer go away,
  • the feeling like we didn’t do enough this year,
  • shorter days can feel stressful as time seems to be in short supply,
  • the anxiety of what next year holds — many are worried about how bad a recession could be, and that stress seems to be ratcheting up this fall,
  • the loss of a loved one at this time of year, either recently or in the distant past,
  • someone you love being sick,
  • having kids in school who are vibrating with the stress of assignments, tests, or choosing post-secondary programs,
  • and so much more could be happening with someone — you just never know what unseen burdens a person carries.

November can bring people down while others are happy to embrace the cooler weather and shorter days. This November, consider how you can play a role in being a contagion for joy and calm.

>>If you already love the fall, remember your positivity will help others who are at a low point.

>>If this month is a hard one and you feel anxious and stressed, then consider how you can minimize that both for your benefit and the people you interact with.

I think an antidote to stress is joy.

It’s easy to add some joy to a day, change your emotional state, and spread that around to others. How do you find joy in a blah, meh, or dreary moment? How do you find more joy in a joyful moment?

These are some easy ways I bring joy into the moment:

  1. Hack Stress: take 1 minute to do a few slow-breathing exercises, 5 min to stretch or do something playful, 10 minutes to laugh (watching a video online or a comedy show), or 20 minutes to go for a walk in nature where you are fully present to sights, sounds, smells, and the way the ground feels as your foot touches down and up.

    >>> If you signal to your body you’re not stressed, the body is smart enough to downshift.
  2. Shrink Stress: Pause to make a list (mentally, on a piece of paper, or on your digital device) of what you’re grateful for right now.

    >>>I like to start big. As in the big bang. I’m grateful for the big bang and finding myself on a perfect planet a few billion years later, where there will never be another moment like the one I’m experiencing right now. That exercise gets me every time with a surge of gratitude and wonderment. I’m instantly happy for whatever November moment is happening – it’s truly a miracle! Try this 3 min experiment: take 30-60 seconds and scan your body and emotions for stress, joy — whatever is there right now. Spend 30-60 sec in gratitude – what blessings do you feel? Do another 30-60 sec mindful body scan and then notice how you feel. Does it feel like the negative emotions shrank and the positive ones expanded?
  3. Get infected with joy (my favourite!): find a positive, hopeful, loving person and call them or spend some time with them. They will spread their joy, their calm, their hope.

    >>>Here I am visiting my grandmother (Nani) for her annual Hindu prayer, where she thanked God for all her blessings. At one point in the prayer, we could see Nani crying – she was so overwhelmed with happiness. Her state of joy touched everyone in the room and brought a smile to my face. I can still feel that joy even after the day has passed.

Go ahead and bring (more) joy to November or any day you can. Everyone you interact with will feel that energy.