Finding joy in your life is not always easy when you are a caregiver. We all know caregiving is hard. It's a roller coaster of conflicting emotions, and those emotions can change in a heartbeat. It’s easy to feel joy when good things are happening in our lives. It’s much harder when we are feeling frustrated, exhausted, scared and put-upon.

Joy is what gets us through the tough times. Finding joy in our daily life is essential to maintain our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When I was caring for my father, one thing I learned is to look for joy in the small day-to-day things. The idea is to build a reserve of joy to increase our resiliency when things are not looking so assured.

Small changes can often make the biggest differences; here are a few ways to keep joy in your life:

Start a gratitude journal. Take time each day to write down the things you are grateful for and the things that bring you joy. It creates a touchstone for you now, and a collection of memories for you in the days ahead. If you need a little help to get started, check out this article about gratitude exercises from Inc.

Find a way to surround yourself with nature. One of the easiest ways is to take a walk. Bring fresh flowers into the house. Visit a garden center or nursery. Take a drive thru the Bluegrass. Watch dogs playing at a dog park, or just sit and watch a sunset. Reconnecting with nature often re-energizes the spirit.

Listen to music. There’s a reason Louis Armstrong said, “Music is life itself.” Music has been shown to help lessen depression, tap into old memories and decrease anxiety, pain, heart rate and blood pressure. Music has also been shown to help with healing, boost learning, improve neurological disorders and increase social interaction. Music can lift your mood and bring joy back into your world. Is there a song that brings you instant joy? Play it!

Create something. A sense of accomplishment can be a great source of joy. Making something is just about the gratification of starting a project and seeing it through. Try a new recipe, frame a favorite photo, write a letter, or start a photo album. The sense of accomplishment you feel helps re-charge your emotional battery.

Keep active. This reduces feelings of depression and stress while improving your overall physical and mental well-being.  Being active can help build up your immune system, help you sleep better and is almost certain to give you more energy. Getting out and walking is the easiest way to stay active and can provide that much-needed alone time to help clear your head.

Just laugh. Humor is another effective way of dealing with the challenges of caregiving. A loved one’s unprompted remarks or unexpected antics can be just the thing to bring joy back into the day. Laughter can add levity to any situation and can reduce stress. We all know that “Laughter is the best medicine.” 

Let UK Elder Care help. We can help you develop a new outlook on your caregiving responsibilities by finding new strategies to make your day-to-day situation more joyful. Call us at 859-218-0457 or email terri.weber@uky.edu.

Terri Weber, UK Elder Care Coordinator