Wellness Challenges To Cultivate Joy

I have been on a wellness journey since early 2018.

Back then, I was feeling very stressed, and unwell physically and emotionally.

Our family of five had moved quite suddenly and there was a lot to do to get us settled. The move itself happened during my husband’s busy season at work, so he couldn’t take time off to help with the unpacking.

At the time, my youngest was not quite two years old and required a lot of my attention. He was also still waking at night so I was sleep deprived most days.

Being in a new environment, we all caught a bug soon after we moved in which added another stress factor into the mix. Then, if that wasn’t enough, I hurt my ankle from carrying too-heavy boxes up the stairs. This brought all the unpacking to a halt and prolonged the chaos. So, it was a stressful time.

I felt overwhelmed and soon began forgetting the smallest things. I had major brain fog! I would walk into the kitchen only to forget why I went there in the first place. Yet, life had to continue; meals, homeschooling, groceries, cleaning, all the things. I had some to-do’s on my phone, especially the important ones, but I would often forget to check my phone. So, I decided to try a paper planner to give my poor brain a break.

I researched many brands until I came across The Happy Planner brand online. I ultimately selected another brand because I just wanted something very basic. However, I later found a big, vertical layout, Happy Planner at my local Michaels and decided to use it for wellness.

For most of that year, I journaled and tracked how I was feeling, what I was eating, how I was sleeping, etc. This gave me valuable insight into my mind and body! In mid-year of 2019, I started using that insight to intentionally make changes in my life to be well.

Journaling continues to be a big part of my wellness. It’s very important for me to get my thoughts down on paper so I can get them out of my mind and address them. This habit gave birth to the Happy Journal which I feature on here a lot. This past June, I started to incorporate monthly challenges into that journal that focus on emotional wellness. Their purpose is to be intentional about doing something each day that brings me joy and improves my mood.

In June, I completed a Smile challenge.

June Smile Wellness Challenge

I planned the entire month with a task each day that was guaranteed to make me laugh or crack a smile. I have to admit that some of the ideas for this challenge were a bit strange at first. Take day 18 for example – “make a silly face in the mirror” – that’s a bit weird if taken seriously, but it was highly effective!

There is a lot of science behind what happens in our bodies when we laugh and how they contribute to overall health and wellbeing. I won’t get into that here, but one tidbit of information that I found interesting, and comforting, is that laughter is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.

I started chatting with one of my friends every Wednesday so that we can share what’s going on in our lives and encourage one another. This time has been like therapy for me; I’ve never laughed so much! That’s day 24.

And, as was done on Day 8, I’ll put on a comedy and have some laughs with the family when I start to feel down. It is a great stress relief!

In July, I aimed to read more.

July Reading Wellness Challenge

I’ve always loved to read. I especially love fantasy novels because they create new worlds that engage my imagination. I also love light-hearted novels and Christian books. Over the years, leisurely reading fell along the wayside because there were more “important” tasks to attend to. I eventually just forgot about this hobby and how much I enjoy it.

I don’t have a ton of time to devote to reading so I was realistic and selected three books. One was a short read, and the other two were already partly read so I was able to finish them. I read mostly in the evening before going to sleep. This was a wonderful way for me to wind down for the day.

In August, I took a photo each day.

August Photography Wellness Challenge

I’ve always enjoyed photography. I used to go on walks with my husband and sister in our community and take photos of nature. These days, most of my photos are of my family and the everyday memories we’re making. I love taking these kinds of photos because they’re of our life together, which I want us all to remember. However, I wasn’t being consistent with it and wanted to change that.

To keep it easy, I just used my phone’s camera and made sure to always have it nearby so I can snap those precious, spontaneous, moments.

In September, I doodled.

September Doodle Wellness Challenge

This is something I did a lot when I was younger. At some point, over the years, I just forgot I could do it and thought I couldn’t draw. Strange how that happens, right?

I didn’t have a plan or prompts for this challenge. I just doodled something memorable about the day. If I couldn’t think of anything in particular, I just doodled some florals.

In October, I knitted.

To be honest, knitting isn’t really a calming, joy-inducing, hobby for me. It’s usually frustrating because I often pick complicated patterns to make pretty things. I always seem to lose my place, make mistakes and end up frogging it completely.

I’ve learned it’s best to keep it simple. I pick projects that are short or have a very easy to follow pattern. What brought me joy with this challenge was the opportunity to slow down.

In November, I focused on gratitude.

I talk about gratitude a lot because it’s an area in which I struggle! That month, I was feeling distressed about the home our family is currently living in. There’s a lot I don’t like about it and focusing on that was making me feel very unhappy and longing for a home of our own. So, I set out to focus on its positives instead.

And for December, I’m listening to Christmas music every day.

I love Christmas music! In fact, I listen to it all year long because it makes me feel so jolly. I created a playlist on Spotify and YouTube focused on the reason for the season – He is with us! I listen to a song each day and do some creative journaling in a separate notebook.

Here are some other ideas for wellness challenges:

  1. Try a new hobby.
  2. Do something creative.
  3. Perform a random act of kindness.
  4. Try a new tea or favourite drink each day.
  5. Try a new recipe each day.
  6. Go for a walk each day.

I could go on but I kept this list very short because what brings me joy may not be for you. What I would suggest instead is to take a look at your hobbies and interests; things that you enjoy doing or always wanted to try, and things that have brought joy in the past. And then be intentional about doing that for a month.

Joy & Peace, Sister!

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