I threw out the challenge on my Sunnyside column, suggesting that friends join me in sharing one moment each day for the month of February. I hoped a few would jump on board, but I also expected resistance. Many friends try to stay off social media, afraid of the time-suck. As much as I enjoy time off screens, I appreciate the connections with friends now more than ever. It cannot compare to in-person, but often a post will spur a real phone call or a walk with a friend.

Sipping coffee before the rest of your house wakes, freshly laundered sheets, a funny text from an old friend.  These days, it doesn’t take much to brighten our moods.  But how often do we stop and notice these moments of joy?  

We spent the fall learning how to work safely in our offices while juggling our kids’ hybrid school schedules and their new work-from-bedroom scenarios.  Drained by Zooms and the guilt of additional screen time, the weeks became more difficult to manage.  We worried about the mental health of our kids at home and those away in this new world of college.  I needed to shift my own frustrations to a happier outlook.

I suggested to two of my college friends that we text each other one moment of joy each day.  “Share anything that makes you smile, or gives you a quick hit of joy,” I explained.  “Focus on yourself, not what you are doing to bring joy to others.”  My goal was to uncover what made us smile each day.  I wondered how we could cultivate more happiness?

“Took a hot Epsom salt bath after dinner #joyburst” I sent to Bryson and Loren. 

“Used a hair mask and blew out my hair even though I had no place to go,” Bryson shared.  

“Met a friend for a run #joyburst” Loren 

“Listened to Oprah’s podcast on a slow walk #joyburst” Loren sent us both.

“Eating my lunch outside without my phone,” I sent.

Our bursts of joy became contagious. I turned off my alarm clock, remembering that Bryson enjoyed sleeping in the day before.  I searched for a spa playlist that gave Loren a #joyburst the day prior.  Todd asked me about their joy bursts at dinner and shared his own.  If my day was gloomy, I found myself trying to find a reason to smile and share.  The quest for joy bursts distracted me from my gloom.  We shared photos of recipes, podcasts, quotes, and songs.  The more focus we shined on our joy, the brighter these moments became.  

When our boys were small, we read the book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” and laughed over how miserable he was.  The more Alexander stomped around complaining, the worse his day seemed to get.  Gloom breeds doom.  

 By changing our mindsets to search for the good moments, we can find more reasons to smile.  We don’t need grand celebrations or adventures; we just need little everyday sparks to feel more joy.  A text from a friend, watching a movie with your child, a warm bath at the end of the day.  Simple moments bring joy and when added up, brighten our day.  But it is up to us to search for these moments and savor them.

 If you have been struggling to find joy lately, do not give up hope. Your search might take longer or be more difficult, but I bet you can find a little something to make you smile.  On days when I cannot find anything, I look to my friends to see what is making them happier and try to duplicate for myself.  That is why sharing your joy is so important, you never know who might need inspiration at that moment.  

I give my family books in their Christmas stockings, even though the books sit on their nightstands and often go unread.  I have faith that eventually, someone will be inspired to read one of them.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I cling to hope.  I have given them journals as well, trusting that they will use them when the time is right.  

February 1st began with close friends posting their coffee before their kids woke up, flowers they bought themselves, exercise classes they sweat through. The #joyburst picked up traction and I created a Facebook group to give people a place to share. I watched my friends invite their own circles and inspire one another, celebrating their joys.

Seven days in was Super Bowl Sunday. A tough time for many who look forward to that celebration with friends. I reached out to my friend Keri and she helped me buy a ring-light. I needed to find the courage to create a video to reach more people. Too many friends are not patient enough to read about joybursts, and I worried about the ones who weren’t making time for their own happiness.

Thinking about a simple joy makes you feel grounded in this crazy world.  Sharing it inspires others to do the same.

“I took off the afternoon to go skiing- it was a huge joyburst!” A friend shouts to me across a busy parking lot in town.

“Thank you for giving people something positive to focus on,” reads the note that is placed in my mailbox.  

I knew people were hurting but did not fully understand how disconnected many were feeling. For some that is building connections, for some this is creating a positive routine, building self-esteem and resilience. As we approach the year anniversary of the pandemic my hope is that we continue to share little moments of joy, and soak up all of their magic.